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Mapping the System of Gun Violence in the U.S.

Mehdi Jamei


With the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, and elsewhere in the U.S., gun violence has once again emerged as a major topic of discussion. So many factors have been posited as possible causes — access to firearms, permissive gun laws, lack of mental health services, even media consumption habits — that effective solutions can be difficult to imagine.

For our part, then, we’re mapping gun violence as a system — made up of many interacting parts, and whose activity cannot be measured as just the sum of those parts. We believe that we need to see it as such, all related and connected, in order to give policymakers the right lens to solve it.

Here’s where we are right now.

While these are still early days, unexpected connections have already begun to emerge. For example, while the relationship between gun violence and violent crime might seem intuitive, evidence suggests that gun violence is related to nonviolent crime as well. Evidence also suggests that gun violence is related to social distancing (and through it to COVID-19).

Needless to say, the work to understand gun violence systemically is urgent.

The American Medical Association (AMA) declared gun violence a public health crisis in 2016, and there are signs that its systemic impact extends well beyond immediate injuries and loss of life; studies suggest that concern about school shootings is hurting the mental health of American adolescents, and that active shooter drills in K-12 schools are proving harmful as well. So we’d love to get your help.

What other data sources, models, and studies should System incorporate?

Please let us know. You can reach us on Slack, by email, or by using the feedback tab in the app.

Systems IRL