Numbers don’t lie – but they may not always tell the full story. Mark Bryant, a Kentucky gun owner and former computer systems analyst, has been finding those hidden numbers on gun violence in the United States since 2014. He provides them through his Gun Violence Archive (GVA) so that others – journalists, researchers, and policy makers – might use them to bring common sense into laws and conversations on gun ownership.
Bryant and the GVA remain neutral in that conversation. In an exclusive interview with Liberal America, Bryant said:
“GVA collects and logs all possible gun violence data, without prejudice of type, to contribute unbiased data for the national debate on gun violence.”
An editor at Slate magazine started the project after the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shooting in 2012. Bryant found missing incidents in the data they reported and soon became a volunteer on the project. He took it over in late 2013, and along with a small staff has since recorded more than 100,000 incidents. We asked him about his experience.
Can you give an example of any gun control legislation or advocacy group that has used data from the Gun Violence Archive to change laws or effect change in a community?
Mark Bryant: We have been blessed that our data is used nearly every day by advocates in many states to push for laws that can reduce injuries and deaths from gun violence — Nebraska, New York, Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee and others just this year.
Do you coordinate in any way with others doing gun violence research, and if so, how?
MB: We try, pretty successful. We are always willing to work with researchers, law enforcement, journalists who need specific data. If it is not part of our 100+ variables, we try to tailor our process to give them what they need.
How has the NRA reacted to the Gun Violence Archive? And more generally, do you have a sense of how gun owners have reacted to it? Has it changed any minds?
MB: NRA and its voices in the blogosphere do everything they can to minimize the work…that is expected. They oft-time criticize the methodology – usually without even reading it from what I can tell. Interesting thing is, the data doesn’t care; it is just there. It is a listing of incidents without subjective commentary or spin, just the numbers and names, and more importantly, all verified by multiple sources from law enforcement, media and other sources.
They seem particularly bothered that we completely discredit their defensive gun use mantra. They suggest, depending on the day, that there are between 1 and 2 million defensive gun uses per year. Those that we can prove number under 2,000. We are of the belief that if an incident is significant enough that a party has to draw a gun to defend themselves, whether they fire it or not, it is significant enough to report to police, and to not do so is irresponsible gun ownership.
What are your thoughts on bridging the ideological divide between gun rights and gun control advocates?
MB: We mainly hear from the very committed gun rights advocates and the very committed gun violence prevention advocates. This problem will be solved when we get that very large middle of America who is neither, to look at the facts and be informed. Right now they worry about jobs and taxes and education and healthcare, and seldom look at gun violence unless it hits close to home.
What is the most effective strategy or strategies to do that? Or, said another way, in what ways would the data you’re collecting be the most effective in doing that?
MB: Our data is intended to give researchers an open look at the cost of gun violence. We provide the raw numbers, locations, conditions of the incident. Others can then wrap context around those numbers, whether medical costs, loss of wages, family impact, costs to society such as more [emergency rooms], more police, more security. That has the effect of both personalizing the violence and at the same time showing the blanket effect that gun violence has on society.
For a better understanding of the state of gun violence in America, see the video below:
Featured image courtesy of Gun Violence Archive Facebook page.