Mass Shootings Maps Compare Gun Violence in the US to Australia

How to stop mass shootings? Maps speak louder than words. 

Last Saturday, and for the first time in nearly a century, The New York Times ran an editorial on its front page, to rage against the gun epidemic in the U.S. Will the pen prove mightier than the sword? 


Opponents of stricter gun control are unlikely to be swayed by the paper's outrage, arguments and eloquence (1). More ink and blood will flow; more airtime will be filled with arguments pro and con before anything is done, if anything is done at all.

Perhaps cartography can come to the rescue. A map is worth a thousand words. And here are two pertinent examples.

First, a map of all mass shootings that have occurred in the United States in 2015, up to and including the deadliest incident so far, the San Bernardino shooting on December 2nd.. That attack claimed the lives of 14 victims and both perpetrators, as well as injuring a further 23 people.

The map was published by The Boston Globe, and is based on data collated by the Mass Shooting Tracker website. MST defines a "mass shooting" as an incident in which at least four people are shot. By that definition, the U.S. has experienced 353 mass shootings this year, resulting in 462 fatalities and 1,312 people injured (2).

The opacity of the red blobs on the map reflects the geographic density of mass shootings, their size the number of casualties claimed by each. Contrast that with the second map, showing all the mass shootings that have occurred in Australia since 1996.

That's right: none

There's a reason why 1996 is chosen as the Year Zero for the second map. On 28 April of that year, a lone gunman went on a bloody rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 people and wounding 23. It was the bloodiest shooting spree in Australia’s modern history (3). It was also the last. Shocked by the carnage, the Australian government rapidly enacted strict gun control laws.

This resulted in a nationwide ban on semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, as well as stricter rules on gun licensing and ownership. The Australian government bought nearly 1 million firearms from the public and destroyed them. There have been no more mass shootings in Australia since then (3).

That's not to say stricter gun laws have magically turned Australia into a massacre-free country. Since 1996, there have been a number of particularly gruesome and deadly arson attacks, for example. Nor has Australia become completely gun-crime-free. The country has witnessed one or two "minor" shooting sprees and even, last year in Sydney, a case of jihadist terrorism, which claimed the lives of two victims as well as the perpetrator's.

And of course, there is a difference of scale to keep in mind. There is barely one Australian for every 14 Americans. But if we take that into account, and all other things being equal, there should be about 30 mass shooting casualties in Australia every year. Times the 19 years since 1996, makes around 580 Australians dead in mass shooting events. In fact, the number was, as demonstrated by this map, zero.

--

Many thanks to Mark Feldman for pointing out the map in the Boston Globe. The Australian mass shooting map seen on the Twitter account of Rory the Saltminer. Go here for the Mass Shooting Tracker.

Strange Maps #752 

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

(1) The paper's previous front-page editorial, in 1920 against the nomination of Warren G. Harding as the Republican candidate for president, wasn't very successful either: Harding went on to win the election. 

(2) MST data for 2013: 364 mass shootings, 500 deaths, 1,266 injured. Data for 2014: 336 incidents, 383 deaths, 1,239 injured.

(3) It depends on what you call "modern." The so-called Coniston Massacre, the last officially sanctioned mass-killing of Aboriginals took place no longer ago than 1928. Up to 110 native Australian men, women, and children were killed in revenge for the murder of a white hunter.

(4) At least not in the public sphere. There was one case of murder-suicide in 2014, in which a husband shot his wife and three children before turning the gun on himself. 

Scientists find a horrible new way cocaine can damage your brain

Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.

Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
  • Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
  • Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less
Politics & Current Affairs

Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?


Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
    Patriotic.

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.


Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.