Is the Host State of Your Next Event Gun Crazy?
Comparing state gun laws should be a part of the site selection process
The tragic Kansas City Super Bowl shooting on February 14, 2024, serves as a stark reminder of the importance of prioritizing safety and security in both large-scale and small-scale event planning. But it also points out the unsettling fact that no matter how much security you put in place, there are some scenarios for which there is no defense.
It's a problem that goes beyond what happened in Kansas City. In 2020, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 45,000 Americans were killed by gunfire. That's the highest gun death toll on record according to the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The VCP is a national tax-exempt educational organization working for a safer America through research, investigation, analysis, and advocacy. The data also confirms that States with weak gun laws and higher gun ownership lead the nation in gun deaths. VPC data shows that Mississippi, Wyoming, Louisiana, Alaska, Missouri, and Alabama have the highest gun death rates in the Nation while Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York have the lowest.
Planners can minimize the possibility of exposing a group to gun violence when conducting due diligence during the site selection process. There are several organizations in addition to the VPC that can provide planners with tools to assess the level of gun safety in destinations where they are considering hosting events.
Read More: Safety and Security Primer
Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (EGS) is a 501(c)(3) organization, which focuses on awareness and educational work related to gun violence prevention. The organization compares state gun safety policies across the country. They score every state on the strength of its gun laws and its rate of gun violence (Gun deaths per 100,000 residents). EGS research has found that states where elected officials have taken action to pass gun safety laws, fewer people die by gun violence.
To use Kansas City as an example, Missouri experiences one of the highest rates of gun deaths, gun homicide rates, and household firearm ownership. Missouri not only has none of the foundational gun violence prevention laws, but in 2007 the state repealed an 80-year-old permit-to-purchase law—leading to an increase in the state’s gun homicide rate of up to 27%.1
Only a few of the 50 top policies are in place in Missouri, and legislators have shown no momentum for passing gun safety protections, despite the fact that St. Louis is among the top US cities with the highest gun murder rates in the country.
According to Giffords Law Center, Missouri has the fifth highest gun death rate in the country and on average someone is killed with a gun every seven hours in the state. Led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, GLC works in all 50 states to change gun policies. Giffords, research also supports the findings of VPC showing that states with stronger gun laws have less gun violence. In contrast to Missouri, Massachusetts has the lowest gun rate death in the country and on average someone experiences only 3.5 gun deaths per 100K residents.
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