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slate_gundeathschart.jpg
Kois said when you look at the chart you realize there is a Newtown, Conn. happening each day. "It's not in the same place with the same shooter, but it's happening every day." (Image courtesy Slate.com)

How gun deaths are being tracked on a day to day basis

"Basically it's a Newtown every day."

Dan Kois is a writer for Slate, and found that accurate numbers on gun deaths in the U.S. are hard to come by.

As it turns out, no official was documenting these deaths on a real-time basis. Both the FBI's violent crime division and the CDC document gun deaths on year-by-year basis.

As a result, following Newtown, the most recent comprehensive numbers on people killed in the U.S. using guns, was from 2009.

Kois acknowledged why it was a problem on KIRO Radio's Andrew Walsh Show.

"It's the reality of being up to the minute," he said.

As it turns out, finding the same sort of comprehensive data on people that died in car crashes, for example, would be just as hard to come by.

Then writers at Slate discovered the Twitter handle @gundeaths. The Twitter user preferred to remain anonymous, but since the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. this summer he'd been compiling gun deaths on a daily basis.

When he would find a gun death that could be sourced via a newspaper/magazine/news website link, he would tweet it out. As the fall went on, he kept doing this, and the @gundeaths' followers remained around 200.

After Newtown, when the gun debate rose to the top of conversation across the country, his reports of gun deaths picked up.

Slate decided to do their part, and turned @gundeaths' tweets into a chart that that reflects the number of people killed by a gun in a given day, including their gender and approximate age.

Kois said when you look at the chart you realize there is a Newtown, Conn. happening each day. "It's not in the same place with the same shooter, but it's happening every day."

The system isn't perfect, Kois said there are holes in their data. "Fifty-five percent of gun deaths in America are suicide - which are almost always not reported in the news."

Still Kois finds that getting the information out there is important.

"The whole point of this is to make the data available for people as the gun debate accelerates," said Kois. "You can't have this debate without the data."

Alyssa Kleven, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at MyNorthwest.com. She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.
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