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States with weakest firearm laws lead in gun deaths: study

A row of shotguns are seen during the East Coast Fine Arms Show in Stamford, Connecticut, January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A row of shotguns are seen during the East Coast Fine Arms Show in Stamford, Connecticut, January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Many states with the weakest firearms laws have the highest rates of gun-related homicides and suicides, according to a study released on Wednesday by a liberal think tank.

Alaska had the most gun deaths, with 20.28 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010, twice the national average, the analysis by the Center for American Progress showed.

Louisiana and Montana, which followed with 19.06 and 16.58 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively, were among the 10 states with the weakest gun laws, according to the study, the latest to link gun laws to firearm deaths.

Eight of the states with the highest levels of gun violence were among the 25 with the weakest gun laws, said the report, citing a study last year by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"This report - as others before it - demonstrates a strong link between state gun laws and gun violence," it said, adding that this link didn't imply cause and effect.

"Factors such as gun trafficking across state lines, overall crime patterns, and other socioeconomic issues in a state all play a role in gun-violence rates," it said.

Louisiana, Alaska and Alabama have the highest levels of gun violence, based on measures that include firearm deaths, suicides, homicides, and police officials feloniously killed by guns.

Hawaii, Massachusetts and Connecticut had the lowest rates of gun violence, and were among the 10 states with the strongest gun laws, the study found.

Hawaii had the fewest firearm deaths in 2010, at 3.31 per 100,000 people.

Last month, researchers reported in the online journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, that more gun laws in a state were associated with lower firearm death rates.

Several states have moved to tighten gun laws following the massacre of 20 students and six adults at a Connecticut school in December.

President Barack Obama is seeking to pass the broadest gun control regulations in a generation, but faces stiff opposition from pro-gun groups.

The United States had about 31,300 firearms deaths in 2010, with two-thirds of them suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Vital Statistics Report.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bernadette Baum)

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