In the wake of last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, gun violence is once again the topic du jour in America.
Gun control crusaders claim the problem is easy access to firearms while gun advocates say America would actually be safer if more responsible citizens obtained concealed carry permits. In between the two extremes are those who support tougher background checks and/or limits on what type of firearms citizens should legally be allowed to purchase.
And the debate doesn’t just center around the string of mass shootings that have unfolded across the US over the past several years. There are also very real concerns about the proliferation of gun violence in cities like Chicago and Baltimore.
The debate reaches to the highest levels of government with politicians on both sides of the aisle weighing and indeed, just two days ago The Supreme Court came down on the side of limiting access to “assault weapons”, a classification which one Illinois resident called “pejorative” in a complaint.
Given all the attention the issue has received of late, you might be curious to know just how prevalent gun violence actually is where you live. Fortunately, there’s a map for that courtesy of Slate and The Trace, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States.
Utilizing data from the Gun Violence Archive, The Trace has developed an interactive map which allows you to discover how many fatal and non-fatal shooting have occurred in a particular area. Essentially, the map uses location data to find where you are, and tells you if anyone has been shot there recently.
(click for interactive version)
* * *
Excerpts from "How Many People Have Been Shot Near You This Year", by Alex Yablon and Chris Kirk, as published in The Trace
In relentless succession, a parade of towns and cities have this year joined the bloodstained ranks of American mass shooting locations. The mere mention of the places — Charleston, Chattanooga, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino — evokes images made familiar at Columbine and Virginia Tech and Tucson and Newtown: the police battalions rushing to respond, the shocked survivors and bereft loved ones, the eerie portraits of newly infamous killers.
But the truth is that these cities and towns and the events that now define them, however lethal they were and however large they understandably loom, comprise just a small fraction of the gun violence recorded in America during this or any year. In 2013, the last year for which government statistics are available, less than 2 percent of more than 33,000 gun deaths in the country were due to mass shootings. Tallies of gun-related fatalities are in turn dwarfed by totals for gun injuries. Every 12 months, more than 130,000 people are shot; many are left with devastating physical impairments and crippling health care bills.
Thanks to a nonprofit, nonpartisan project known as the Gun Violence Archive, data on gun homicides and non-fatal shootings is now available well before the federal government releases its statistics. That data includes location information that makes it possible to plot those shootings on a map showing how many have taken place in your vicinity. Where someone was killed, the shooting is coded in red (this includes multiple victim incidents with a mix of fatalities and injuries). Shootings resulting in injuries but not deaths are coded in yellow.
In all, the map contains 30,284 incidents recorded by the Gun Violence Archive from December 5, 2014 to December 5, 2015. As comprehensive as it is, it’s also incomplete: Guns are used in twice as many suicides as homicides (and are the most lethal means of suicide). But because many suicides are not reported in real time by the law enforcement sites and news outlets that the GVA mines in compiling its database, they are missing from this visualization.
What you’re seeing, then, is gun violence in all its other forms: homicides, attempted murders, assaults, self-defense shootings, and accidents. For 80 percent of cases, location information for the shooting is available down to the block level. Another 18 percent of locations are exact to the street level, with the remaining 2 percent limited to the city level.