The Reviz Project: The Gun Problem We Don't Mention

1/17/2016 Matt Chambers 5 Comments

Click for interactive version
Gun violence is one of the most prevalent topics in the United States.  It seems as if there is constantly a news report of gun violence on the local news or mass shootings in the national media.  I started to look at the data on gun violence, and one thing that was shocking to me is just how many gun deaths are from suicide.  The CDC provides a reporting engine called WISQARS that allows users to run reports on different causes of death.  Using this reporting engine, I was able to run reports on homicide and suicide by gun deaths.

As I started to explore the data, it became apparent how much of an issue suicides by gun are in the United States.  From 2000-2014, there were over 274,819 suicides compared to 172,688 homicides.  As I thought about the how I wanted to build the visuals to tell this story, I wanted to be able to see if there were any regional issues with gun or homicide data.  To do this, I used the hex tile map visualization since it gets rid of the issue with states having more area and skewing perspective.  The jury is still out on whether it is a best practice or not, but you can find my tutorial on how to build them in Tableau if you are interested.  

Next, I wanted to build something that would show the trends of each state.  I wanted to show all of the trend lines together and show the overall trend.  I also wanted to have the trend line recalculate when the user clicks the state tiles so that it is easy to see the individual trend for a particular state.

Finally, I wanted to bring in a scatter plot to show how states with lower than average populations seems to have higher suicide rates.  The purpose of these visuals is twofold:  telling the story of how suicide by gun is such an issue in the United States and to prompt questions from Alex and Nelson when they reviz it.

There are several things I would like to look into further.  First, why do the states with lower than average populations have such a propensity to have higher suicide rates.  I would want to look at gun ownership per capita, pull that data in and join it to the existing set, and see if there are any correlations. Second, why do Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana have such extreme suicide rates.  This could be related to my theory on gun ownership per capita, but it would definitely be interesting to explore.  I can't wait to see what the revizzers come up with!


  1. Would definitely like to see the gun ownership numbers rolled into it so you have homicides/suicides per gun.

    Nice looking Viz and definitely raises some interesting talking points.

  2. Gun ownership numbers will be unreliable. Some have no guns, while their neighbor may have several. Gun owners are usually not forthcoming on questionnaires. It's like asking income, considered rude, nosey, and can only lead to bad outcomes.

  3. Thanks for the information. Actually gun is not the problem, problem is in the attitude of people who don't know while shooting the gun that they don't only kill that person they hate, but they also effect the life of the people associated with that person. Killing is easy but saving life is very difficult. The moral values are responsible for these type of cases.
    MA Gun License

  4. Hi Matt,
    I'd like to get permission to use this design in a publication, can you please contact me at
    Catherine Plaisant (University of Maryland)

  5. I really appreciate for your efforts to make things easy to understand. I was really many students struggling to understand certain concepts but you made it clear and help me bring back my confidence.

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