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Shop owner Irvin Walker unpacks merchandise

Shop owner Irvin Walker unpacks merchandise Oct. 22, 2012, at Triggers Gun Shop in Mills, Wyo. Wyoming gun sales have been strong over the past four years, mirroring national trends, and Wyoming residents applied for a record number of concealed-carry permits in the past year.

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming ranked fourth on a list of states with the highest overall gun death rates, according to analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Violence Policy Center study found that states with weak gun violence prevention laws and high rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun death rates. The study analyzed data from 2011 and ranked Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Wyoming and Montana as states with the highest rates.

“Gun violence is preventable, and states can pass effective laws that will dramatically reduce gun death and injury,” said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center. “Our analysis also shows that states with weak gun violence prevention laws and easy access to guns pay a severe price with gun death rates far above the national average.”

Louisiana registered the highest rate, with 45.6 percent of households owning firearms and 18.91 gun deaths per 100,000 people. Fourth on the list is the Cowboy State, with a gun death rate of 16.92 per 100,000 people. Nearly 63 percent of Wyoming households own firearms.

Wyoming gun advocates dispute the numbers.

“If we took an area the size of Chicago and compared it to the state of Wyoming, the numbers would likely be skewed in a different direction,” said Anthony Bouchard, director of the Wyoming Gun Owners Association. “They have the toughest gun laws there are, and it’s not stopping the violent crimes and death that is happening, in excess of two dozen deaths in a weekend.”

Gun control advocates say it’s up to the states to better regulate gun violence.

“Lawmakers in every state should roll up their sleeves and pass stronger legislation to prevent needless deaths from gun violence,” said Sue Hornik, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a national advocacy group for state gun violence prevention. “The safety of our families and communities is at stake.”

Bouchard said that national groups often use numbers to their advantage and that groups from outside Wyoming don’t understand the state’s situation.

“These people that have these ideas need to stay out of Wyoming and worry about their own states,” Bouchard said.

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