Gun Deaths in America

Gun Deaths in America

Organisation: FiveThirtyEight (United States)

Publication Date: 04/07/2017


Size of team/newsroom:large


Early in 2016, a team of reporters and editors at FiveThirtyEight set out to tackle the guns question. The San Bernardino shooting, just the latest in a mounting series of mass shootings, was fresh in our minds, and we were frustrated at our lack of a framework for reporting on these events as well as the more routine gun violence that claims thousands of lives each year. Gun control advocates were repeating their unheeded calls to ban assault weapons and improve background checks, and gun rights advocates continued to insist that existing regulations were sufficient or that policies targeting violence or identity were more prudent than those targeting guns. The guns question seemed to boil down to policy, but we couldn't fathom wading into this fraught debate armed with the usual tools. So we came up with a basic research question, one we thought we could evaluate and test: What would it take to reduce the 33,000 gun deaths in America? That question informed months of reporting and research and the 10 stories and interactive graphic we published as "Gun Deaths in America" on July 13, 2016. It reoriented our conversation about guns from one about weapons to one about victims. From there, we were able to look at the diverse and disparate impact of gun violence and the myriad solutions that have been tested and proposed to reduce it, and even a few that clearly work. This interactive guides users through every type of gun death in the United States. It allows people to follow a narrative or explore the data for themselves by cause, gender, age and race.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

This project went from data to narrative: We began by looking at what the data told us about the people who were dying from gun violence in the United States. That allowed us to launch into more traditional reporting efforts, and this project aimed to seamlessly weave the numbers into already compelling narratives about people. The editorial page editor at The New York Times praised the series on his blog, and it was shared widely by other publishers on Twitter and via multiple public health newsletters. Reader after reader reached out to us with praise for our nuanced, comprehensive look at a complex and fraught topic. The interactive graphic starts readers where we did: It takes data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and allows users to explore which groups suffer most from gun death. Its lesson is simple, but powerful: Some of the most common deaths receive little attention.

Technologies used for this project:

WebGL, regl, Node.js
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