This visualization by Periscopic imagines the gun murders of 2010 as 9,595 individual stories.

Each starts as an arc of orange or yellow.

When a life is cut short, the dot falls to the bottom of the graph, and continues on as a faint grey line.

The animation continues until …

… you’re inundated with thousands of deaths in a matter of moments.

Again, each line is its own life--and almost 10,000 lines are drawn on the page you see.

The effect is staggering.

After the visual completes, you’re free to explore the data further.

Toggle several tags to dig through the data in more ways. It’s a really respectful, individualized way to explore a horrible topic.

Infographic: The 9,595 Americans Killed By Guns In 2010

How do you depict the 400,000 years of life lost to guns annually? Not by aggregating, but by showing each life as a discrete line.

Lately, there’s a lot of talk on assault rifle bans, and whether it’s an individual’s constitutional right to own a weapon capable of slaughtering a room full of people in moments. And as important as all of that debate may be, I can’t help but wonder if we’re missing the larger point: 69% of gun murders are from easily concealed handguns.

It’s one of many thoughts that rushes through my head while watching this infographic on U.S. gun murders in 2010. Created by Kim Rees and Dino Citraro from Periscopic, the stark animation traces every single one of the 9,595 lives lost to gun murders that year. It’s as much a memorial as anything else.

“We’re hoping that people will see these individual victims,” the team tells Co.Design. “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. We’re hoping to keep their flames living on in the hearts of others.”

That word “flame” plays out literally. A black background is cut with a burning orange or yellow arc of light (a person’s life). Upon death, they fall from the sky, and a “ghost lift” line finishes their trajectory. It’s absolutely cutting to look at, especially after a few moments, when the graphic just inundates you with lost life--what adds up to 400,000 years of living, taken by bullets.

“The idea of using arcs is to harken to the nature of life--a birth, growth, an apex, a waning, and finally death,” the team explains. “Above all, we wanted to respect the individual victims of these crimes. The focus was on the huge potential that was lost--babies who would have grown old, kids entering college who had so many things left to do in the world.”

Once the visualization is complete, the user is free to click through the data to explore more. A particularly smart toggle will show you a stat mirrored by its complement. So while you see that 10 20-year-old women were murdered by guns in 2010, and that number seems so small, it’s presented with a data shadow of the 420 men who were killed by guns in that same age range. Through data design alone, it’s inherently impossible to look at the bright side. The context reminds us that there isn’t and will never be a good way to spin these numbers.

See it here.

[Image: Holes via Shutterstock]

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23 Comments

  • T C Young

    It would be fascinating to see an info-graphic depicting the stolen years of the fifty million plus lives aborted since the 1970's if each one of them had an average life of 40 years.  Talk about a mind blowing visual and an astounding "stolen years" reality.

  • Mirigan1

    Where's your awesome info graphic for DUI deaths and Abortions?  Would love to see the numbers on those.

  • I rarely comment but...

    So many of these questions could be answered if the wording was read more carefully. 

    Everything says "with a gun," never "by a gun." And the title is "gun murders," meaning it excludes suicides and they probably filtered the information so that it only includes murder.

    Words have meaning! Let's understand and appreciate their uniqueness. 

  • 4mxonly

    For a piece that claims to appeal to facts and critical, rational thought... you sure do leave out a lot of detail and context.  Moreover, your whole article is a persuasive piece skewed to one side, and completely void of an counter argument.  How painfully ironic.

  • Denny Royal

    Roughly 98,000 people die of preventable medical errors per year. How about talking about that story?

    More than 13,000 killed by drunk drivers each year.

    For some real fun go research how many people are killed by hammers or clubs each year.

    We should really rethink our priorities. 

  • Steve Pender

    This stat conflates violent people who are *stopped* by guns as well. Wake me up when you do an infographic on the over 100,000,000 deaths by governments who confiscated their people's guns, in the 20th century, and the lifetimes, loves and innovations we could have had, had they not been murdered by the ideological ancestors of those who now want to blame inanimate objects for murder and violence. Gun ownership is primarily for defense against a tyrannical government, just to sit there in the event that the government becomes tyrannical, such as when they try to steal peaceful people's inanimate metal objects using other inanimate metal objects with violent intent.

    Look, gun technology isn't complex. 3D printing has let the genie out of the bottle forever. The tech exists, and people in garages with machining equipment can build them. The solution then isn't to only give these people and people who ignore laws (the "gun free zones" are the prime target for criminals wanting to shoot innocent people) ultimate power, but to allow the majority of us, who are lawful and respectful of one another, to MATCH them in strength. The gun is an egalitarian tool. When in possession, you need not fear anyone. When guns are banned, you are required to depend on police for your very survival. Not acceptable. The spontaneous nature of violence requires an equally spontaneous response, which is impossible with the 5+ minute delay by law enforcement.

  • TheoDusko

    I never understand these people who say "If you take away our guns, who's going to stop the [insert perceived threat here]!?" The proposed gun control legislation in America right now is not intended to take away guns, it's intended to take away automatic weapons and weapons with large magazines. If your argument is that you need a gun for protection, you can have one. You just can't have one that can shoot 50 rounds a second and doesn't need to be reloaded until you've fired 30+ rounds. Automatic and large capacity weapons are for spraying an area with bullets. Are you being attacked by an invading army? Is there a pack of wolves chasing you through your street? Perhaps a zombie horde banging on your door? No? Ok then.

    Get a gun if you feel you need to protect yourself. If you have to pull the trigger for each shot manually, does that really stop you from defending yourself? Do you really need more than 7 bullets to put down your threat? Maybe you should get to the range more often. By design, rapid firing and large capacity weapons are not made for self-protection. Stop with this over the top sensationalism.

  • ikkf

    Well said.

    As the saying goes, Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what's for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

  • Ryan

    Hi Al! It's *almost" like you've got some kind of google alert set up on comments to troll.

  • Al

    Ha! Christ, if that was possible, the internet would grind to a halt within a day...

  • HHotelconsult

    What a beautifully designed, easily comprehensible, immediately relate-able infographic.  It is wildly accessible, and that makes it one of the best I have ever seen.  It's difficult to comprehend. Really well done, dealing with such intimate datas must have been difficult?

  • HHotelconsult

    Pardon.... it's difficult to comprehend the impact of the infographic, not the infographic itself. =)

  • Ed Boring

    While 9,595 seems large as an absolute number, it represents around .002% of our population.  That is two one-thousandths of one percent.  Expressed as a per capita number, it is miniscule.  Of course it is poignant for the victims and their families, friends, and communities.  The affects of murder go well beyond the victim and the offender.  In the same year, 2010, we had almost 34,000 deaths caused by traffic accidents.  More than 3 times as many as by gun.  Shall we ban motor vehicles?  Also, what are the social profiles of these murders?  What motivated them?  It is just not as simple as "people were killed with guns; let's get rid of guns."

  • Tao Phillips

     Motor vehicles are useful. THey get people from A to B. People are constantly working to improve the safety on the roads ie low alcohol limits, speed limits. Guns are useful if you think the US government is going to take over you home. The thing is it doesn't matter how many guns you have if that story is correct, they have far superior weaponry. Also, having a gun in your home means it is most probably that you or someone in your household will be shot and killed, far more likely than you shooting an intruder.

  • T Paulus

    Excellent points.

    It's kind of a sloppy graphic, when you consider the data is represented in such a detached format. Currently it just displays "Gun Deaths = bad". What are the breakdowns on the info behind the stats?

    How many of these were deaths came at the hands of a police officer stopping the commission of a crime? Is it quite the same tragedy if a rapist is being shot/killed in the act of apprehension? 

    Are suicides being counted? Should we tally those as 'stolen years' and assume that a suicidal person won't accomplish the same result by other means? 

    And that's not even counting accidents or mishaps or any other equally tragic losses of life. All this data is telling us is that guns can kill people. Ok, well so do ladders, dogs and knives. Rather than extrapolate from an emotional, one-sided piece like this, we can view it against the larger trend of falling violent crimes and reach a slightly different conclusion. 

  • Al

    Expressed as a natural frequency, it's two in every 100,000 people.

    That's an average of two people in every medium-sized town (e.g. Davenport, Iowa), every year. Or, an average of 20 people in every medium to large city (e.g. San Jose, California).

    Two lives lost in every town every single year? Twenty lives lost in every large-ish city every year? Not a big deal? If I lived in a Davenport-sized town I'd be worrying about who those two people might be this year.

    You seem to be saying, that's no big deal, let's wait until it's such a large fraction of the US population that it actually takes a noticable chunk out of the whole US population in one year. I'm pretty sure the last time a whole percentage point or more of healthy people were killed in one year was World War 2. Probably not even Vietnam had that kind of impact.

    Regarding the traffic accident comparison: It's a good practice when making a comparison to have a common baseline. How much more often are people around cars, compared to how often people are around guns? 3.5 times? Hardly - you probably pass 200-300 cars on a typical day without fatal accidents, compared to maybe 5 or 6 citizens carrying concealed firearms who choose not to shoot you dead. Works out at guns being about 20 times more dangerous per unit than cars.

    By the way, who's talking about banning all guns? You look more than a little paranoid when you see a graphic that puts into comprehendible terms how many people are killed with guns, at a time when lawmakers are talking about closing a loophole that allows criminals to buy guns at gun shows plus possible restrictions on assault rifles and clip sizes, and you respond by arguing against banning all guns - something nobody is seriously proposing. Straw man fallacy - google it.

  • garden

    Statistics on either side of this argument miss the point. A society with guns is not perfect but is preferable to a society where the populace is not armed.