ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — For the fourth year in a row, Alaska has taken the top spot on a nationwide list for gun deaths per capita.
The figures were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC's report, there were 180 firearm-related deaths in Alaska in 2017, the year of the study.
The firearm death rate ranked highest in the nation per capita, coming in at 24.5. That's more than double the national average which came in at 11.8.
Alaska reached the top of the list in 2014 with 19.2 gun deaths per 100-thousand people, in 2015 that increased to 23.4 gun deaths per 100-thousand, and in 2016 our state remained at the top with roughly the same rate as the previous year at 23.3 gun-related deaths .
In the Anchorage area alone, out of 66 gun related deaths in 2017, 38 were suicide, and 28 were homicide according to the CDC.
Back at the bottom of the list for the first time since 2014, is Hawaii, with a rate of 2.5 deaths per 100-thousand for 2017, jumping four places from 2016. Massachusetts was the lowest in 2015 with a rate of 2.9. Massachusetts and New York came in 2nd and 3rd in 2017 each with a rate of 3.7.
A separate CDC report shows that Alaska remains in 2nd place for suicide deaths, as it has for four straight years, with 27 suicide related deaths per capita in 2017.
Victor Spence, Director of Adult Services, for Anchorage Community Mental Health Services says isolation is most likely a factor, when it comes to Alaska's ranking.
"It's a transient state. Most people here are pretty much isolated. You can't up and drive away, said Spence. "As far as the lower 48 is concerned, you can go and see family members, friends and relatives, as opposed to Alaska, sometimes you tend to isolate because you are usually here by yourself."
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide you can call the 24-hour crisis hotline at (907) 563-3200. Information on services geared towards those going through a tough time can be found on the Anchorage Community Mental Health Services website.
Data is sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The gun death rate is calculated by taking the number of people who died by firearm per each state, dividing by the state's population and then multiplying by 100,000. This produces a crude rate.
Next, an additional step is taken to turn the crude rate into an age-adjusted rate, which means a "standard" population distribution is used to help compare different groups.
Firearm death is inclusive to all people that experienced death by firearm. By definition, both suicide and homicide, by guns, qualify as firearm deaths.