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Mapping America's Gun Issue

Posted by Barbara Fordyce on

Since the tragic murder of high school students in Parkland, Florida, media attention has been trained on the issue of guns in the USA. And throughout the media coverage, maps are front and center.  Maps show where firearms are most concentrated, the geographic distribution of the damage they do, the varying laws that exist across states, public attitudes towards gun control, and more.

Location and Frequency of Violent Incidents

One of the most comprehensive collection of data-based maps concerning the gun issue is the Gun Violence Archive. The overall goal of GVA is "to provide the best, most detailed, accessible data on the subject to add clarity to the ongoing discussion on gun violence, gun rights, and gun regulations." They are a reporting group that is concerned only with reporting incidents.

While the overwhelming amount of media attention is focused on high profile mass shootings, the GVA meticulously breaks down incidents into more refined categories such as: Defensive, Unintentional, Home Invasions, Police-related. They also categorize incidents by the victim group, eg. Children, Teens.

GVA offers maps visualizing the data for each category, plus data downloads that researchers can use.

Where Are the Firearms?

Maps are often used to answer this question because map graphics have more impact than a verbal statement.

For example, most people are aware that the US ranks very high on the per capita ownership scale. But seeing the data displayed on a world map allows the information to be comprehended more quickly and easily.

Maps showing the comparative level of gun ownership across US states are also prevalent.

Assessing the Danger of Gun Violence

People often want to how much danger they are you. Standard choropleth maps such as this one showing Homicides Per 100,000 Residents are frequently used to show data by state.


However, interactive maps such as the one offered by Slate allows readers to get information on their local area.  Enter a zip code, and it shows many gun-related incidents occurred in the past year.



Using Maps to Get Political Information Out

The NRA grades every lawmaker on their record of support for gun legislation that promotes the rights of owners.  They created an interactive map that anyone can use to check their representatives grade.

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