400,000 “stolen years”: analyses of gun violence in the US

Our data-visualization colleagues at Periscopic have released a new report on US gun statistics.


They looked at the FBI’s Unified Crime Report, which describes gun murders from the year 2010 from police precincts across the country, and combined it with an estimate of the “expected life” of each victim based on standard age prediction tools using the UNSD Demographic Statistics database that provides estimates of the probability distribution of life expectancy among various groups in the population.

The calculation provides an estimate of “years of life lost” from gun violence in the US. In total, their estimate suggests about 410,000 years of life lost from gun violence in 2010. See the full visualization, and the breakdown of years of life lost due to type of gun, race, sex, age, region, and type of murder (single victim or multiple) here.

To look at the breakdown by state, the Guardian newspapers “datablog” (one of our favorite data sites) has compiled gun statistics by state through 2011. You can get the full spreadsheet of data here. This data includes breakdowns by state of how much guns are used as murder weapons as compared to other weapons (guns are a vast majority, at about 68%, as compared to knives at 13%), and how gun violence rates have been changing over time.

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In 2011, California had the highest number of gun murders–1,790, but given the higher population size that’s about 3.25 per 100,000 people in the state. When you correct for population size, the highest gun murder rate is actually in Washington D.C. (at 12 gun murders per 100,000 people). The rate of gun murders is dropping in most states. However, it’s rising in Indiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana.

It would be interesting to merge this data with gun control law data to examine the relationships. Some preliminary assessments to this effect have been done and suggest both a rise in homicides after a rise in gun availability, and a decline after strict gun control. Unfortunately a lot of folks have been relying less on these systematic assessments than on a website called “justthefacts.com” that claims to have done independent analysis–but we found out that the site is actually run by a conservative/libertarian group that appears a priori opposed to gun control judging from what appear to be rather manipulated charts and data on their website…(they also claim to have published a “highly researched book evidencing factual support for the Bible”!).

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