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Stolen Years: This Data Was Living and Breathing, and Has Now Been Extinguished

by Abby Zimet

Guns, as always, in the news. The fugitive former cop and alleged killer called armed and dangerous by the LAPD - "Of course he knows what he's doing - we trained him." Temorej Smith, the 3-year-old boy in South Carolina killed with a pink gun that he and his 7-year-old sister mistook for a toy. Two children and a mother shot dead in Denver in an apparent murder-suicide. Two more young men shot and killed in Chicago. A Connecticut woman arrested - miraculously, before anyone died - after allegedly pulling out a loaded semi-automatic handgun during an argument at Chuck E. Cheese. Along with the inevitable horror stories, horrifying new numbers to contextualize them: At least 1,631 gun deaths since Sandy Hook, 67% of Republicans think video games are more dangerous than guns, data shows  there have been more gun deaths in this country - about 1.4 million - than deaths in all our wars - about 1.2 million. A fresh perspective on the stories and numbers from data visualization firm Periscopic, which created a graphic project to document the 10,000 lives lost to guns in this country in 2010. Their feather-like graph, punctuated by interactive information on each victim,
features flowing curved lines for each life that change color - vibrant orange or yellow to ghost-like gray - when the person dies. Their goal, they say, is to make a human connection to the unending numbers to make them real.

“We chose to illustrate the vibrancy of their lives as bright orange and yellow arcs, reminiscent of flames in the darkness. When that person is killed, we create an alternate life for them, a ghost life — a life that may have happened if they hadn’t been shot and killed. This alternate arc is shown in gray, reminiscent of ash. The idea of using arcs is to harken to the nature of life — a birth, growth, an apex, a diminishment, and finally death...We’re hoping that people will see these individual victims. We’re not looking at aggregate numbers. We’re not trying to analyze this data. This data was living and breathing, and has now been extinguished."

Update: At a Wisconsin convention this weekend, NRA officials sneeringly dismissed "the Connecticut effect" - the entirely legitimate nationwide grief and horror at the Newtown shootings - as something short-lived, and vowed they would remain as powerful as ever.

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