States with more lenient gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership lead the country in gun deaths, according to a new study using federal data.

Missouri had the fifth-highest gun death rate in the U.S. in 2017 with 21.38 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the study.

The Violence Policy Center released the study using data from the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Alaska was at the top of the list with 24.33 deaths per 100,000 people.

Deaths from firearms increased between 2016 and 2017 from 38,658 to 39,773. The nation's overall gun death rate rose as well, to 12.21 per 100,000 people, according to the study.

The study also found that states with more restrictive gun laws had a lower gun-related death rate. Hawaii, which was 50th overall, had a gun death rate of 2.73 per 100,000 people, according to the report.

"Year after year, the numbers reflect the same undeniable fact," Kristen Rand, an organization spokeswoman, said in a statement. "States with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death.

"Gun violence is a growing public health crisis that demands immediate attention from policymakers on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country.”

The organization describes states with weak gun laws as ones that "have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public," according to its website.

The study defined "strong" gun violence prevention laws as ones that restrict access to particularly hazardous types of firearms, such as assault rifles; set minimum safety standards; require a permit to purchase a firearm; and restrict open and concealed public carrying of firearms. 

Supervising editor is Sky Chadde.

  • Investigative and courthouse reporter. I am a senior pre-law student studying data journalism at The University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Reach me at or @ByHunterGilbert on Twitter

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