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Idaho defies correlation between gun-ownership and gun deaths

Generally, states with a higher rate of gun-ownership see a higher rate of firearm deaths. But Idaho is an outlier.

Coeur d’Alene’s Fourth of July shooting was a shock; not just because of the sheer nature of the incident, but also because this sort of thing rarely happens around the Inland Northwest. 

KREM 2 researched all recorded incidents of violence at large events in this region, and could find only two instances, both in Spokane: one in 2010 when two men fired shots into a crowd at Hoopfest; the other in 2011, when someone left a bomb on the MLK Jr. Day Parade route that the FBI said could have caused many casualties. 

RELATED: Shootings at large events in Spokane, CDA are few and far between

Generally, states with a higher rate of gun ownership see a higher rate of firearm deaths, which includes homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. But Idaho is an outlier here.

According to data compiled by CBS, the top five states with the highest rates of gun ownership are:

  1. Alaska (61.7 percent)
  2. Arkansas (57.9 percent)
  3. Idaho (56.9 percent)
  4. West Virginia (54.2 percent)
  5. Wyoming (53.8 percent)

When compared to data on firearm deaths from the CDC, there is some correlation with gun ownership. Alaska’s firearm death rate in 2017 was 24.3 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest of any state. 

But something that sticks out like a sore thumb in the data is Idaho. While Idaho is third in the country for the most gun ownership, it is 16 on the list for firearm-related deaths, according to data from the CDC

The difference wouldn’t be so glaring if the other states with high gun-ownership weren’t also states with the highest firearm-related deaths. For example, Alaska has both the highest gun-ownership rate and the highest rate of firearm-related deaths. 

The data from the CDC and CBS shows that any state with a gun-ownership rate over 50 percent sat in the top ten states with the most firearm deaths. But not Idaho; although the state has a gun-ownership rate of 56.9 percent, the firearm-death rate is 16.31.

Here are the top five states in terms of firearm-related deaths, and their gun-ownership rates:

  1. AK: 24.3, G.O. 61.7%
  2. MT: 23.2, G.O. 52.3%
  3. AL: 23.1, G.O. 48.9%
  4. LA: 21.5, G.O. 44.5%
  5. MO: 21.4, G.O. 27.1%

It’s hard not to notice that every state other than Alaska in that data set has a lower rate of gun-ownership than Idaho, while also having a higher firearm-related death rate.

To put it in perspective, Arkansas, which is one state ahead of Idaho in gun-ownership at 57.9 percent, has a firearm-death rate of 20.4. And West Virginia, who follows closely behind Idaho’s gun-ownership rate at 54.2 percent, still has a good deal more firearm-related deaths than Idaho, with a rate of 19.2.

The data begs the question: what about Idaho makes it the outlier when it comes to the correlation between gun-ownership and firearm-related deaths? Without a thorough analysis of state regulations and historical context, that question is nearly impossible to answer. 

One thing is certain: the correlation exists, but for whatever reason, Idaho defies it.

RELATED: Security video shows panic during Fourth of July shooting in Coeur d'Alene

RELATED: 'It was dynamic, it was intense': Police chief describes Coeur d'Alene park shooting

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