2021 Shortlist

Deadliest Mass Shootings Are Often Preceded by Violence at Home

Country/area: United States

Organisation: Bloomberg

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 30 Jun 2020

Credit: By Jackie Gu; Edited by Mira Rojanasakul and Rebecca Greenfield

Project description:

This story examines the relationship between domestic violence and mass shootings, weaving together personal narratives, data analysis and policy failures on a local and national scale to investigate one of the human costs of this country’s lax gun control laws. It analyzes 749 shootings from 2014 to 2019—the largest and most comprehensive by far of an analysis of this kind–to find that 60% of shootings with four or more victims were either domestic violence incidents or committed by men with histories of domestic violence.

Impact reached:

The story was shared by researchers and organizations such as Everytown, the Trace, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Giffords Courage, Moms Demand Action, and the Canadian Femicide Observatory.

It provided overwhelming evidence of the links between domestic violence and mass shootings. It was also the first large-scale study to expand the data beyond the deadlist mass shootings—reasoning that attempts upon lives should be taken just as seriously, whether victims ultimately survive or not. In doing so, it was the first study to find that mass shootings with domestic violence links were also more deadly.

Techniques/technologies used:

Mass shootings data was compiled and cross-verified from multiple datasets in order to achieve the most complete survey available. From there, details and metadata around each of the 2000+ incidents were researched by looking into news reports and criminal histories of the perpetrators.

The interactive story was built with a combination of d3, ai2html, and other custom html, css and javascript.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Given the sensitivity and nuance around each incident, we didn’t feel comfortable compiling and extracting data programmatically. So the most difficult aspect was the sheer number of stories to comb through—going over each one in graphic detail. Availability of criminal background history was spotty and varied by state, and other incident details were only known to us if local news covered it.

What can others learn from this project?

A story is often the most powerful when personal narratives and quantitative journalism work together. The data analysis demonstrated widespread patterns, while tough interviews and Jackie’s deft storytelling laid out the horrific patterns of abuse and failings in our justice system to heed the warning signs of violence.

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