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Friday, 28 December 2012

"The shots heard around the world"

Recent mass shootings in the US and elsewhere affect me in a particular way: My parents grew up in Nazi then Soviet occupied Pest, on the east shore of the Danube overlooked by the Buda Castle (dark green below), from which guns fired down streets perpendicular to the river (grey at right below), so residents literally ran the gauntlet across those streets, and friends of my parents lost a babe in arms from a stray bullet; my parents thus emigrated just before my birth to give me a better life, but that included six months in Algiers during a revolution where I too witnessed two fatalities early 1961.

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Needless to say I have a certain position on gun control... and it is not the NRA's! So I engaged in some debates on Facebook and elsewhere, signed a whitehouse.gov petition on the topic, and  looked for good data on gun usage in relation to homicides and crimes. The Guardian had excellent coverage, not only in statistics but also the attendant data in their outstanding Data Blog. Whilst I created maps in Google Fusion Tables before, look no further for great uses of Google's new rendering tools:

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The issue is complicated: if the rate of assault and murder is overwhelmingly tipped toward firearms, their numbers are in slight decrease. I also found that the address locator and sharing functions are simple yet intriguing additional tools.

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This map also shows that whilst the US has the most guns per capita, it certainly doesn't have the highest homicide rates globally. Indeed from the same Data Blog in October 2010, the correlation appears to be between world development and crime.
My aim here is to cast a little perspective on a currently intense debate, which needs to be addressed for sure, but with cooler heads let's hope...