America’s Unprecedented Gun Problem, In 5 Images

How many Americans actually want gun control? Why the Las Vegas shooting was different? And what’s the best way to prevent another tragedy?

America’s Unprecedented Gun Problem, In 5 Images
[Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Las Vegas this week, where a gunman shot 59 people and injured hundreds of others, Americans are trying to make sense of the frustrating stasis of gun control laws in the United States–and how those policies impact mass shootings.


Data can offer some clarity on some of the most controversial issues being discussed in the shooting’s wake. There’s no shortage of concise data visualizations that examine gun rights and gun control in America today, but many of them have one thing in common: They show a deeply divided country, at war with itself.

Vegas Was Different Than Other Recent Mass Shootings

Explore the interactive graphic here. [Image: The New York Times]
An interactive from the New York Times traces the speed at which the bullets were fired during the Las Vegas shooting as compared to the speed of the bullets at the Orlando nightclub shooting that occurred in June 2016. The gunman in Las Vegas fired about 90 shots in 10 seconds, while the gunman in Orlando fired about 24 shots in nine seconds. That’s because the Vegas shooter had a rapid-fire gun–an instrument of death that is not regulated by the National Firearms Act.

Guns Cause Thousands Of Deaths Every Year–Mostly From Suicide

Explore the interactive graphic here. [Image: FiveThirtyEight]
While mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas are horrific tragedies that better gun control would help prevent, there are also far more deaths from gun violence that happen outside the national spotlight. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Multiple Cause of Death database breaks down how exactly those deaths occur. Of the approximately 33,000 gun deaths in the U.S. in 2014, nearly two-thirds of them are suicides, while a third are homicides. Mass shootings account for a small percentage of these murders.

Yes, There Are Ways To Reduce The Chances Of This Happening Again

Explore the interactive graphic here. [Image: The New York Times]
In 2016, the New York Times asked a group of experts to rate how effective different policies are at preventing gun violence and compared the results to popular opinions. The resulting infographic shows just how many things experts say the government could do to curtail gun violence that more than 50% of the American people also support. For instance, both experts and the majority of Americans are in favor of universal background checks for gun buyers and barring sales to all violent criminals and anyone convicted of stalking.

Yet The Percentage Of Americans Who Oppose Gun Control Is Growing

Explore the interactive graphic here. [Image: Pew Research Center]
So what do Americans think about all this? The Pew Research Center has been tracking public opinion about gun control and gun rights for the last two decades. Its interactive graphic gives an overview about people’s views on guns–and the general trend over the last 20 years is an increase in people who want to protect gun rights, with a decrease in those who want to limit them. Still, that could be changing: Support for more controls on guns has risen from 46% to 51% since August 2016. You can also look at how different demographics–including partygender, and race–view guns.

Gun Control Is A Red State Versus Blue State Issue


Jon Cohen, the chief research officer at Survey Monkey, used the company’s election maps to look at how gun-owning households and non-gun-owning households voted in the 2016 election. The red map on the left shows how gun-owning households voted for Trump, in every single state. The blue map on the right shows how non-gun-owning households voted almost exclusively for Hillary Clinton, with the single exception of West Virginia. The results are shockingly stark–Cohen tweeted that no other issue had such a strong political split–including white non-college, married, men, and veterans. You can play around with the interactive graph yourself here.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.