Monday, January 14, 2013

WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF GUN DEATHS?

Every day now, when I check the Slate.com database of gun deaths in the USA since the December 14, 2012 Newtown killings, I am both amazed and saddened by the growing number (today it is more than 800). Shortly after looking at these statistics, I began to wonder who the victims were. We are used to seeing news stories and numbers that are not very personal; in other words, we know little to nothing about the people being killed.

I decided to dig into the data a little bit, and I chose New Years Day 2013, January 1, as my focus. I will say up front that the New Years Day data are skewed because people are out celebrating the new year, which means a lot of alcohol is being consumed. Sure enough, the total number of gun deaths for that day was 45; most days have somewhere between 20 and 30 gun deaths.

I downloaded the Slate.com web data base the other day; it's a spreadsheet file. For each victim there is information for the city, state, gender and age. On the Slate.com interactive database, there is a web link for each victim that goes to a news story about the death. I went to every link for the January 1, 2013 deaths and added information to the spreadsheet in a Comments column.

Below is the resulting spreadsheet. Take a few minutes to look through it, then continue reading below it.


If we stick to the numbers, we see that these deaths were in 19 states across the country (CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, LA, MI, NE, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, WI). The graph below shows the victims by age group. The largest age group (the most deaths) is from 15 to 30 years old; in fact, it's mostly 15 to 24 year olds if you parse the data a bit more (most shooters are also in this age range). If you read my previous post, this matches the federal DOJ statistics.

Some of the deaths had known causes: suicide (3); killed by police (4, at least 1 of which was "suicide by police"), domestic violence (3), drug-related (2), drive-by (1), robbery (1), and "just playing around" (1). The majority of the deaths were related to arguments or fights, many at clubs or bars. Some were the result of criminal activity, like robbery or drug deals. Of the 45 deaths, 41 were men, 4 were women.

But this is still just numbers - statistics. Who were these people?

Unfortunately, the links in the Slate.com database are mostly the first news reports following each killing, and many of them have very little information because the details of the killings were not yet known. I could dig more, using an internet search engine, but that would take all of my time for many, many days. And so I am left with only a few hints, brief glimpses into lives ended by bullets.

Elzina Brown was a 59 year old school crossing guard, mother and grandmother. She came home for lunch to find her daughter, Diamond Dunn, and the daughter's boyfriend arguing about their 4-year old daughter. When the boyfriend pulled out a gun, Elzina got between him and her daughter and was shot in the chest; she died at the scene. Before running from the home, the boyfriend shot Diamond in the face; she is expected to survive, but a friend said that her face "is basically gone." Two shots from a handgun ended the life of one woman, and permanently changed the life of a family.

Aaron "ZEGOR" Zigorski was an 18-year old high school senior who took his own life using a handgun. Aaron was a star athlete, very well liked in the community, and had a bright future ahead of him. His death was a shock and surprise to family, friends and the entire community.

Belinda Espinoza, 29, shot and killed her partner, 24-year old Ana Flores, and then killed herself following a domestic argument. Based on their Facebook pages, the women were in love and engaged. Just before the argument, Belinda posted a photo of the couple kissing.




Benjamin Sky McDaniel, 19-years old, was shot and killed during an apparent drug deal. He was an avid basketball fan, was going to junior college, and wanted to be a basketball coach. A friend was also wounded at the scene.




I just checked the Slate.com site; as of January 12, 2013, 833 people have died from gunshots since December 14, 2012 (these are deaths reported in the news media). That's 833 lives ended in less than one month. Each of these people had families, dreams, ambitions, and their own story. Many of them had a Facebook page. I didn't know any of them, but their families, friends and communities did.

The argument about gun control in this country is meaningless until we come to grips with a single fact: most of the 15,000+ deaths per year by gun would not happen if guns were not so easily available. From the data compiled above, it is very apparent that most of the people shot to death are victims of anger, drunkeness or depression combined with the possession of a handgun. There are just too many guns, and it is too easy to get one.

Our national debate right now is focused on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines because of the 28 deaths related to the Newtown school shootings. But 2 days later, the same number of people were killed in America by guns, including a 3-year old who found a loaded gun and accidentally shot himself in the head. The day after that another 28 people were killed by guns in America. And so on and so on and so on.........

When will the madness end?



1 comment:

gebloom said...

A place to start is end the war on drugs.

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