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Mapping US gun murders at a micro level: new data zooms in on violence


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The Guardian  /  March 20, 2017

The Guardian is releasing a new set of nationwide data for 2015, which can be used to do analysis of how gun murder clusters within neighborhoods

We spend a lot of time talking about which cities see the most gun violence. But analyzing gun violence at the city level is very misleading. Gun violence is much more local than that.

The Guardian is releasing a new set of nationwide data for 2015 that maps gun murders at the micro level – down to the local census tract. You can use this data to do analysis of how gun murder clusters within neighborhoods in your city or state.

Our analysis was possible thanks to the not-for-profit Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which tracks shootings and gun deaths using media reports. This data set includes the latitude and longitude of each shooting incident. We mapped each of these geolocated gun murders to a census tract – which means that there’s a wealth of demographic data connected to each census tract, allowing you to analyze the levels of poverty, educational attainment and other factors in neighborhoods where gun murders happen.

This article contains the data we used to conduct this analysis. We invite you to download this data and use it for further analysis and reporting. If you use this data, please make sure to credit the Gun Violence Archive and the Guardian.

Using this data, the Guardian found that half of the United States’ gun murders in 2015 were clustered in 127 cities (Want to fix gun violence? Go local). We also found that violence was concentrated even further than simply the city level: census tract areas that contain just 1.5% of the country’s population saw 26% of America’s total gun homicides.

We appended a few other fields to the existing GVA data. Using the FCC’s Census Block Conversion API, we placed each incident within its proper census tract. With the census tract identified, we used the Five-Year American Community Survey 2014-2010 to find demographic information for the tracts. We also determined the land area of each tract with the US Census: Cartographic Boundary Shapefiles – Census Tracts.

We’ve also included a separate easy-to-use file of FBI murder data from 1985 to 2015.

If you have questions about the data, please email gundata@theguardian.com. If you use this data to do your own analysis – whether you’re a journalist or a community organization – please let us know, and send a link to your final project to gundata@theguardian.com, or contact our reporters directly: lois.beckett@theguardian.com and jamiles.lartey@theguardian.com.

Get the data

Each file is a .csv, which can be opened in Excel and Google Sheets, in addition to the text editor of your choice.

All GVA data is from 2015, but you can obtain data from 2014 to the present by going to their website or following them on twitter @gundeaths for daily updates.

Incident-level data – each row includes a gun homicide incident.

City-level data – each row includes a city or county (depending on how it was reported by the GVA), as well as counts for incidents and people killed.

Tract-level data – each row includes a census tract, as well as counts for incidents and people killed.

Previous stories have made use of UCR data, which we obtained from the FBI.

City-level murder data from 1985-2015 – each row is a city, and includes the murder rate and raw number of murders for each year from 1985-2015. Some years are missing for cities. National data on city murder statistics from 2016 will not be available from the FBI until the fall of 2017.

Download a description of all of the above data files with notes here.

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