Mass Shooting Victims, 1986–2017

I made this visualization the day after the Las Vegas strip mass shooting. It’s only been a little over a month; I didn’t think that I would have to update it so soon.

The visualization shows the number of fatalities per year, using man, woman, and child icons that build up over two decades to form the geographical outline of the United States. These icons are randomized and proportional to the gender and age of mass shootings victims data from Melissa Jeltsen at the The Huffington Post. Locations of the victims are also randomized across the United States, regardless of where the mass shooting occurred. This was an intentional design choice when building the visualization; mass shootings are a tragedy regardless of where they occur, and as there are already many well-thought-out visualizations showing the geographical location of each mass shooting, I wanted to instead communicate just how many lives mass shootings have taken and how many more they have affected across our country.

The choice of greater than or less than 20 fatalities was arbitrary; I wanted to differentiate the frequency of mass shootings in the past to the rising frequency in the 21st century. The fact that it becomes more and more difficult to count the number of victims across the map each year not only due to the sheer number of icons appearing but also due to the color scheme and brevity in which each year is visualized is intentional. It seems with every mass shooting, especially the Las Vegas strip mass shooting, many media organizations seem to cover the story 24/7, then completely cut off coverage and move onto the next piece of breaking news. At the same time, as I watch the coverage of the latest mass shooting, the number of victims and the gravity of the situation seem to fade into one another.

The visualization uses data from MotherJones, which tracks the number of mass shootings in the United States from 1982–2017. MotherJones defines a mass shooting as “ At least four people killed in a public place not including the shooter; three or more beginning in January 2013. Shooters who died or were injured are included in the total. Excludes incidents involving other criminal activity.” This is only one of several definitions of mass shootings. The Washington Post created a comprehensive report on mass shootings and how various organizations define them.

View and edit the visualization on Tableau Public.