National

How we tracked gun violence across the country since Parkland

In the wake of the Parkland massacre, McClatchy and The Trace, a nonprofit news organization that covers gun-related news, tracked the deaths of young people 18 and under throughout the United States in the year since Parkland.

The organizations pulled information on gun-involved deaths of school-age children from the nonprofit research group Gun Violence Archive, which culls reports of gun-involved incidents from more than 2,000 media sources. To compare deaths in the year since Parkland to those before, McClatchy classified each year as starting on Feb. 14 and ending on Feb. 13.

To confirm the data and fill in missing details, McClatchy requested incident reports for each of the deaths from the police agencies that investigated each case. To do this, McClatchy compiled a database of law enforcement media and records contacts for more than 600 agencies and wrote a program to send records requests to each agency.

These, in addition to media reports, were used to confirm information and classify incidents as homicides, homicides as a result of domestic violence and accidental deaths.

The Trace, working with more than 200 student journalists, is publishing 100-word profiles of the victims. The Trace didn’t include profiles of youths killed in officer-involved shootings, but if you would like to see a list, it is here.

Findings

Among deaths in the past year of school-age children, at least 154 were accidental and 131 were domestic incidents. Among the domestic incidents, 91 were killed in murder-suicides, where the shooter killed themselves after.

Among cities where the population exceeds 50,000, Wilmington, Delaware, and Youngstown, Ohio, had the highest rates of gun-involved deaths.

Older teens 14-18, were most commonly victims of gun violence, followed by children ages 2 and 3.

More gun-involved deaths occur in the South than any other region. The region accounts for 38 percent of the population but nearly half of the deaths.

Limitations

As Gun Violence Archive pulls from media reports, known incidents of gun violence are limited to what is reported by police and news organizations. Incidents not covered by local news outlets or incidents that occur where there are no local news outlets may not be reflected.

News organizations also generally do not report on suicides, so those are not reflected in the Gun Violence Archive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the number of firearm-involved suicides for ages 18 and younger in 2017 to be more than 950, based on death certificates from 34 states.

While McClatchy and The Trace were successful in getting about 350 initial incident reports, the rest could not be obtained. Some that were received had crucial information redacted.

Four states (Arkansas, Delaware, Tennessee and Virginia) can deny the release of information to non-residents, often requiring a state ID as proof of residency.

Many agencies didn’t release reports due to ongoing investigations.

The amount of information reported by each agency in the initial incident report varied greatly. Some states prohibit the release of the name of the child killed. Some agencies did not include race, summaries of events or the type of weapon used.

In instances where McClatchy was unable to obtain the report, information was checked with multiple sources where possible.

Definitions

Murder-suicide: Deaths in which the shooter killed himself or herself after shooting the victim.

Domestic: Deaths in which the shooter is a family member, a victim’s current or former romantic partner or a family member’s current or former romantic partner.

Accidental: Deaths in which the weapon discharged without intent or when children got a hold of a firearm and unintentionally shot themselves or another.

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Caitlin Ostroff is a data reporter for McClatchy’s DC Bureau, based at the Miami Herald. She uses data analysis and coding to present and report information as part of the investigative team.

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