A New Analysis Of Gun Violence Busts Cliches And Points At Real Solutions

Senior Contributor
03.21.17 6 Comments

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Every American, in their lifetime, will meet someone who was a victim of gun violence at least once. Despite this, the government has generally not allowed itself to deeply analyze gun violence on a micro level. The Guardian and private citizens, however, are under no such legal obligation, and the results are surprising in how they bust cliches and point out some obvious solutions.

The Guardian‘s research, which breaks down every shooting death in America by location down to the “census tract” level, i.e. individual neighborhoods within cities, and has just been made publicly available, has a few surprising results just on its surface. Half of all gun violence happens in 127 cities in America, and the poorer, less educated, and more racially segregated a city is, the higher the odds of gun violence. And it’s not the cities Hollywood teaches you to expect; in New York City, for example, just 1.5% of the cities census tracts saw two or more incidents of gun violence, and despite Chicago’s raw high numbers being a political football, the city paled next to the problems of St. Louis or, ironically, Palm Beach, as one of the most dangerous tracts in the nation (only a short drive from Trump’s Mar-A-Largo club). But the analysis gets even more granular from there:

Geographically, these neighborhood areas are small: a total of about 1,200 neighborhood census tracts, which, laid side by side, would fit into an area just 42 miles wide by 42 miles long. The problem they face is devastating. Though these neighborhood areas contain just 1.5% of the country’s population, they saw 26% of America’s total gun homicides.

Still, as anybody who can look at FBI data and crunch some basic numbers knows, the amount of Americans involved in homicide presents a rounding error; last year, there were 15,326 murderers, or 0.00005% of the population. The Guardian notes, however, that the demographic data goes far deeper than that in research of social connections between those who commit gun violence and those that were victims of gun violence:

In Oakland, analysts found that networks of just 1,000 to 1,200 high-risk people, about .3% of Oakland’s population, were involved in about 60% of the city’s murders. In New Orleans, just 600 to 700 people, less than 1% of the city’s population, were involved in more than 50% of fatal incidents.

In other words, even if you went to a city’s “most dangerous neighborhood,” you’d have to know a member of a vanishingly small percentage of the city’s population to be at any risk for gun violence. This has the features not of a social problem that can be fixed with broad strokes, but of a public health issue, violence jumping from person to person. In other words, it suggests treating the problem at an individual level, and it will die out.

The main question is whether there’s any political will, on either side of the aisle, to address this. It’s easy to use an issue to score a broad point than it is to propose nitty-gritty policy solutions. And the truth is, this only accounts for half of all incidents; the other half will need a deeper analysis of their own to see how they might be ended. But thanks to this data, we’ve got a deeper dive into just what the problem is, and that’s the first step towards finding a solution.

(Via The Guardian)

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