Study Links State Gun Ownership Rates, Murders of Women

Candlelight vigilWomen are more likely to be killed by people they know in states with high rates of gun ownership, according to a Boston University School of Public Health study published in Violence and Gender. The study also reports 88% of female murder victims in the United States are killed by someone they know.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 53.8% of all homicide victims in 2009 knew their killers, and 24.2% were murdered by family members. Worldwide, women are at a significantly higher risk of homicide at the hands of an intimate partner than men are. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 40% of murdered women are killed by intimate partners, and men are six times less likely than women to be murdered by intimate partners.

Could Gun Ownership Increase Gun-Related Violence Against Women?

Because state-specific tallies of gun ownership are not available, researchers could not directly calculate the number of people who own guns in each state. Instead, they used a formula that calculates statewide gun ownership based on state hunting licenses and guns used in suicides. The researchers say this offers a reliable correlation (.95) to self-reported rates of gun ownership.

The team then looked at state homicide rates from the Supplemental Homicide Reports of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, a national data source that provides data on relationships between victims and offenders. They controlled for variables linked to violence, such as age, poverty, alcohol consumption, and crime rate.

The results showed each 10% increase in gun ownership correlated with a 10.2% increase in the female gun-related murder rate. Though the correlation between higher gun ownership and more shootings by people known to the victim was roughly equal for men and women, gun ownership accounted for just 1.5% of the variation in homicides of men. Gun ownership rates alone accounted for 40% of the variation in murders of women. The researchers say this may indicate other factors play a more significant role in male homicides.

Correlation Between Gun Ownership and Female Homicide Rate

The team looked at a correlation, controlling for other potential causes, but did not directly establish a causal relationship between gun ownership and violence against women. Some other factor might mediate the relationship, such as different cultural norms in states with higher gun ownership rates.

Overall, the average gun ownership rate between 1981 and 2013 was 40%, with the lowest average of 12% in Hawaii and the highest average of 73% in Wyoming. The study’s authors suggest that if the gun ownership rate in Wyoming decreased to 40%, the state’s female homicide rate could drop by about 33%.


  1. BU study finds link between state gun ownership rates and murders of women. (2016, January 26). Retrieved from
  2. Expanded homicide data. (2009). Retrieved from
  3. Flock, E. (2013, June 21). WHO study: Forty percent of murdered women killed by their partners. Retrieved from
  4. Siegel, M. B., & Rothman, E. F. (2016). Firearm ownership and the murder of women in the United States: Evidence that the state-level firearm ownership rate is associated with the nonstranger femicide rate. Violence and Gender. doi:10.1089/vio.2015.0047

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  • Olivia

    January 28th, 2016 at 11:49 AM

    I often wonder what has led us to become a nation that thought that we needed so many guns in the first place.

  • pauline c

    January 28th, 2016 at 1:58 PM

    It’s not the guns that kill people
    people kill people
    and they will kill them if they want to bad enough with any weapon that they can find that is available

  • Jaxon

    January 29th, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    And what about the murder rate for men? Are we looking at that too?

  • Corbin

    January 30th, 2016 at 2:36 PM

    I don’t know, I am always so wary of things like this.. You never know who to believe and what studies are right and which ones just have their own agendas. The truth of the matter is that if or when a gun gets into the wrong hands then there is going to be a greater likelihood that someone somewhere is going to get hurt. Now whether that means that more females are the victims of that kind of violence I don’t know. But what I can say s that when there is responsible gun ownership then things like this are far less likely to happen than when guns are handled by the wrong people with the wrong intent.

  • Millie

    January 31st, 2016 at 10:36 AM

    It is an embarrassment to me that we are supposedly such an advanced country and yet we have these murder rates and violence against women rates that are so high. It is so sad given that we are supposed to be so educated and yet here we are so dumb about what the right move should be.

  • Bettsy

    January 31st, 2016 at 2:44 PM

    As a woman and a gun owner I am very torn. I do like having the ability to protect myself with a gun that I definitely know how to use… But at the same time it makes me afraid for the people who come across someone with a weapon who takes no responsibility for their actions.

  • Heath

    February 2nd, 2016 at 3:18 PM

    I am sure that overall there is some validity to this but at the same time I know that there have to be other factors that could come into play as well. You can’t just point to one thing and say that this is the overwhelming issue. Yes it may be a contribution but generally there is no one clear cut answer.

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