Slate.com recently launched an initiative with @GunDeaths to publish an estimate of the number of gun deaths across America since the December 14, 2012 Newtown mass shooting. Official figures on deaths by firearms often take years to be published. Partnering with the Twitter handle @GunDeaths, who collects and tweets as many media stories about gun deaths as possible, Slate created a database of all reported deaths since December 14th. While openly acknowledging that the data will be incomplete, the project makes an admirable attempt to gather anecdotal reports into a comprehensive database including age, gender and location of each victim. Furthermore, Slate makes the data publicly available. As a data analyst, I could not pass up the opportunity to massage the data into a few additional visualizations to tell the story since December 14.
The full interactive dashboard is available on Tableau Public.
We quickly see that December 14th was not the most violent day reported over the past seven weeks. Both January 1st (58 deaths) and January 11st (51 deaths) recorded more gun deaths than December 14th. The Newton victims represent just 1.7% of total reported gun deaths during this time period.
However, the trend lines clearly point to why the event was so emotionally traumatic for so many of us. Excluding December 14th, fewer than 2 percent of victims were children. Ninety two percent of gun death victims were adults while five percent were teens (for the remainder, age is not known). A classroom of children killed on a single day cuts through the ongoing reports of daily gun violence. According to the Slate data, however, more children have died from gun violence after December 14th (27 reported deaths) than did that day.
Gun death victims are also much more likely to be male than female. For the entire time period, 84 percent were male. All of the adult victims at Sandy Hook Elementary (except the shooter) were female. The shooting pushed Connecticut’s percentage of female victims for the time period to 55 percent, the highest of any other state. Many of us have perhaps grown numb to reports of gun deaths of young men. Shootings of women shock us more.
Thank you @GunDeaths and Slate for gathering and publicizing the data. The numbers themselves (with a bit of visualization on top) will continue to tell the story. Each story is complex and the aggregate data cannot cover those details. The sheer volume of gun deaths across the country, however, should be acknowledged and discussed.