American women living in states with high rates of gun ownership are more likely to be shot and killed by someone they know than those residing in states with fewer firearms, a new study finds.
Boston University researchers examined state-specific murder data from the FBI and found a “substantial” association between state gun ownership rates and killings of women by guns.
The investigators concluded that while multiple factors predict rates of gun deaths of males, “the prevalence of firearm ownership alone is enough to predict the rate of firearm-related homicide of females in a state quite well.”
Every 10 percent increase in gun ownership in a state was associated with a 10.2 percent increase in gun-related murders of women, the researchers said in a university news release.
There was no evidence that greater availability of guns protects women from murder. Instead, greater availability appears to increase a woman’s risk of “non-stranger” murder — murder by a family member or another person they know, said study lead author Dr. Michael Siegel. He is a professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health.
Gun ownership rates alone explain 40 percent of the variation in women’s murder rates, compared with 1.5 percent of the variation in men’s murder rates, according to the study.
The findings were published online recently in the journal Violence and Gender.
However, Siegel acknowledged that the study doesn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between greater gun ownership and women’s murders. Other factors may influence the association, he said.
Average gun ownership rates in the United States between 1981 and 2013 ranged from a high of 73 percent in Wyoming to a low of 12 percent in Hawaii, the researchers said.
The study results suggest that if Wyoming’s gun ownership rate fell from 73 percent to 40 percent, there would be a 33 percent decrease in the murder rate among women.
Because nearly 90 percent of female murder victims are killed by someone they know, these findings are important for those trying to reduce women’s murder rates, said study co-author Emily Rothman. She is an associate professor of community health sciences and an expert on domestic violence.
Nationwide, the average gun-related murder rate among men was 7 per 100,000, ranging from 18 per 100,000 in Louisiana to 1.2 per 100,000 in Iowa, the study reported.
Gun-related murder rates among women were lower, ranging from 3.3 per 100,000 in Wyoming to 0.4 per 100,000 in Massachusetts, the researchers found.
The U.S. National Institute of Justice has more about gun violence.