Arizona Ranks 15th in Number of Handgun Murders

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has prompted debate over gun control.

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New evidence continues to surface about the circumstances surrounding Saturday's tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, where Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was a victim of a shooting outside a grocery store where she had been meeting with constituents. Six victims have died as a result of the attack, with another 14 wounded, including Giffords. Among the facts now known are that the suspect, Jared Loughner, legally purchased the Glock semiautomatic handgun used in the murders at a store in Tucson, Arizona. The incident has sparked criticism of gun laws, particularly in Arizona, which is one of only two states to allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit. [See photos of the Giffords shooting.]

Still, gun control is an issue nationwide, and according to the most recent crime data from the FBI, Arizona is by no means the state with the highest rates of handgun-related murders.

According to the data, total number of handgun murders in each state is highly directly correlated to states' population totals. That is, the most populous states also tend to have the most handgun murders. Below are the 10 states that had the most handgun murders in 2009. Arizona was 15th in number of handgun murders in 2009, with 164.

State Handgun Murders
California 1,022
Texas 661
Pennsylvania 373
Illinois 360
Louisiana 330
Georgia 323
Maryland 297
North Carolina 243
Michigan 239
Tennessee 200

Nationally in 2009, 47.3 percent of all murders were committed with handguns, but that percentage varies widely by state. More than three-quarters of all murders in Illinois in 2009, for example, involved handguns, whereas three states—Vermont, South Dakota, and Rhode Island—had no handgun-related murders in 2009. Only half of Arizona's 328 murders in 2009 were handgun murders, making the state No. 15 among state handgun murder percentages. Below are the ten states (plus the District of Columbia) with the highest percentages of murders committed using handguns.

State Handgun Murders as
Percentage of All Murders
Illinois 75.20%
Louisiana 67.9
Maryland 67.8
Wyoming 63.6
Alabama 61.6
Georgia 59.5
New Jersey 59.2
Pennsylvania 56.7
District of Columbia 55.6
Nebraska 55

The national rate of handgun murders in 2009 was 2.22 per 100,000 people, but the District of Columbia had far and away the most handgun murders per 100,000 residents, with 13.3. Louisiana, the No. 2 state in this regard, has around half that total, with 7.25. Arizona's handgun murder rate was much lower, at 2.56 per 100,000 residents. Below are the ten states (plus the District of Columbia) with the highest incidence of handgun murders per 100,000 residents.

State Handgun Murders
per 100,000 Residents
District of Columbia 13.3
Louisiana 7.28
Maryland 5.14
Alabama 4.1
Georgia 3.33
Tennessee 3.15
Pennsylvania 2.94
Missouri 2.84
Illinois 2.81
Mississippi 2.8

Though the District of Columbia had the highest rate of handgun murders in 2009, the District also in that year was under a handgun ban (the ban was lifted in 2010). Likewise, Illinois—with the ninth-highest rate of handgun murders as well as the highest handgun murder percentage in the nation—is one of two states (with Wisconsin) with no provisions allowing for the carrying of concealed weapons. According to the National Rifle Association, six of the ten states with the highest rates of handgun murders in 2009—Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Mississippi—are in the class of states with the least restrictive concealed-carry weapons laws.

Sources: FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division; U.S. Census; National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action

Note: FBI data does not include the state of Florida, whose data did not meet FBI guidelines and thus were not reported.