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Final Project Write-Up

I have posted my final project in the form of a research website I built regarding gun violence in the US. The link is Gun Violence in America and can be viewed by anyone who uses the link. All of my maps, graphs, charts and visualizations are on this website and the data I used can be downloaded in Excel format from the “Sources” page.

I had originally tried to do a project on the correlation between gun violence and healthcare access, but I was unable to find more than one study, and hardly any raw data to create maps and graphs that I needed. So I decided to whittle down my project to just the history of gun violence in America.

In my research, I wanted to answer the question of why there is a rise of gun violence in the US, especially after seeing the reports on the recent school shooting in Connecticut. I wanted to explore gun homicide rates and totals, incarceration rates for gun offenses, gun violence in major cities, and the gun control debate.

I first started with looking at homicide rates in America. Within the US, handguns are the most common weapon used in the commission of a homicide. all other weapons are mostly statistical outliers. I found that areas such as the southeast US and areas with more relaxed or less enforced gun control had the highest rates of gun homicides and the highest rates of incarceration for gun-related charges. I do not find this surprising at all, in fact it was expected.

I also wanted to look at some of the laws that had been passed in Congress regarding gun control. The first law I looked at was the first federal law regarding gun control, the Gun Control Act of 1968, which created rules for gun dealers for registration of guns and to regulate interstate commerce in guns. Then there was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, passed in 1993 to require back ground checks for those who are purchasing hand guns.

I was surprised to see that with so many hoops to jump through, how hard it is to buy a gun, there are still so many instances of gun violence (of the 30 most industrialized nations in the world, the US is almost 5 times more violent than any other). As I was putting together the map of the mass shootings, I realized that in all cases (except the Columbine shooting), the weapons used in the shootings were purchased legally and the purchasers passed a background check. What makes the shootings so horrible is that in most instances, the guns used had what are called “extended clips” or “high-capacity clips”, were the gun is able to hold more ammunition that normally. These high capacity clips are not illegal in most states.

From my research, I have come to understand that the main reason that there has been a rise in gun violence over the past 50 years is that the legislation has not kept up with the new technology that is out there for guns. 50 years ago, it was nearly impossible to own an automatic rifle because they were only issued by the military at the time. There is no reason as to why an ordinary citizen needs to own high capacity clips and huge stores of ammunition. If the legislation were to catch up to the modern technology, then there may be fewer instances of gun-related homicide.

One of the things asked of us for the final assignment was to show how we would ensure the security and preservation of our research over time. I decided to create a hypothetical on-going research project through GMU’s History Department. The reason I chose to do this is because educational institutions have a long lifespan, especially a huge school like George Mason, and have a constant group (though members change, there are always historians) of people available to work on the project. I also created a donate button and a contact form on the “Contact” page so that visitors to the site can donate money to the project and even submit their own research to be added to the database. I also wanted to create something that was nice-looking and easy to use, which I think I have accomplished with my site. This will ensure that users come back to the site because of it’s simple interface and free access to the information. It would also important to backup all of the files I used to compile the data needed (like the sources for my spreadsheets from the graphs and maps) so that as government databases remove old data to make room for the new, the project will still have that data in raw form. These are just some of the things I would like to do to ensure the security and preservation of the “Gun Violence in America Project.”

~ by William Hammill on December 17, 2012 . Tagged: , , , , , ,

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