On the first anniversary of one of the most deadly school shootings in American history, the Mother Jones news team felt strongly that it had to do more than simply commemorate this event. We wanted to raise awareness to the ongoing gun violence epidemic in this country, particularly as it affects children. Last December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut claimed 27 lives—20 of those children who were just 5 or 6 years old. The country responded with grief, rage, and a short-lived uproar that promised to reform gun control for good. The next year brought little change, and more tragedy: mass shootings at apartments in Florida and Washington that together killed 10, one in June at Santa Monica College that killed 5, and then one in September, at the Washington Navy Yard, that claimed 12 lives.
Mother Jones senior editor Mark Follman spent the past year covering these recurring tragedies while researching his “Guide to Mass Shootings in America”—a first-of-its-kind, continuously updated dataset that Follman started in July 2012 after the Aurora movie theater shooting. In advance of the December 2013 anniversary of the killings in Newtown, Follman took on a new, especially devastating aspect of the guns beat: He led a group of reporters in documenting the children ages 12 and under who were killed by firearms in the year since the Sandy Hook tragedy.
The team undertook an exhaustive analysis, scouring news reports to generate a comprehensive picture of the effects of guns on children in America. Their findings were stark: In the last year alone, guns killed at least 194 children—across 43 states, from inner cities to rural towns. Their average age: 6. The vast majority—127 in total—died in their own homes, with 72 children pulling the trigger themselves or being shot by another child and 60 dying at the hands of their own parents. As many cases don’t make the news, Follman cites medical research that pegs the actual number of child deaths from guns to around 500 each year.
To represent the scope of this issue, the team published a report analyzing the data behind the deaths, complemented by six original charts and a video breaking down the facts of this worrisome trend. All of the data—including information about the victims and the circumstances of their deaths—was made publicly available for others to use.
To keep the children from being represented as mere statistics, the project includes an interactive gallery with photos and biographies memorializing each victim. The special report was published as part of a larger project titled “Newtown: One Year After,” that included investigations revealing how gun manufacturers had marketed their weapons to children and analysis of how state gun laws had changed one year after one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
Media outlets around the world—including Bloomberg, CBS, the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Moyers & Company—cited this investigation. Follman appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, CNN, and Fusion’s America With Jorge Ramos, to discuss it, while New York Times columnist Charles Blow and many others shared the piece with their followers on social media.