Tag Archives: Slate

Battle of the NRA Eagle Emblems

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Graphic of NRA Blue Eagle, ca. 1933; Records of the National Recovery Administration, 1927-1937. National Archives and Records Administration. Via Slate

Nope. Not that NRA. Apparently there was a National Recovery Administration set up during FDR’s New Deal to aid workers in collective bargaining and the creation of wage standards. The organization’s emblem–an eagle clutching a gear in one set of talons and lighting bolts in the other–would be displayed by participating businesses to show support for the power of American Industry. From Rebecca Onion’s post on Slate:

Wasn’t the government afraid that people would confuse its new logo with the National Rifle Association’s? Although the NRA that’s now a household name was formed back in 1871, in the 1930s the organization was still a relatively obscure educational body, sponsoring rifle clubs and youth programs. In 1934, the National Rifle Association instituted a legislative affairs division, beginning its transformation into the lobbying superpower that it is today.

Must admit that I rather like the graphic logo of the New Deal NRA. I’m afraid it makes the National Rifle Association’s eagle emblem look rather dated in comparison…

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Visualizing The Impact Of Guns

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“How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown?” Interactive map created by  Slate and @GunDeaths visualizing the toll firearms have taken since Dec. 14.

In Un-Selling The Gun a couple of weeks ago I touched upon the problem of conveying the impact of firearms on the individuals and communities they effect. Humans aren’t always very good at understanding data. In fact, some studies have shown that comprehending specific amounts above the number 3 is still a relatively new skill. And that’s where charts, maps, visualizations, and narratives come in handy. People will go to some interesting lengths to compensate for the limitations of the human brain.

In addition to emotional, first-person stories, gun policy activist Arkadi Gerney once used a “murder truck” (his nickname) to display the number of Americans murdered with guns since the Gabby Giffords shooting.  In his piece on The New Yorker‘s website, he wrote:

On the morning of February 16, 2011, when Mayor Bloomberg launched the truck on a national tour, the digital display read “1,311.” Omar Samaha , whose sister was murdered at Virginia Tech, would captain what was officially called the “Fix Gun Checks” truck on a journey across America.

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Image of the “Fix Gun Checks” truck via HuffPo

But the truck and Gerney’s best efforts still didn’t result in the gun control legislation that he’d hoped to pass. Maybe the bare number by itself (well, with a spokesman and his heart-wrenching story) wasn’t enough to get the message across.

Slate has a similar yet perhaps more powerful project called “How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown? in which every individual killed is represented by an icon showing whether they were an adult or child, female or male. The graphic is also sortable by age, gender, and date and is accompanied by a the same data applied to a map of the U.S. and filterable by location (screenshot at top). There’s something about the human shapes that really stuns. Maybe it’s a sense of scale? I can mentally place these people in relationship to my own body, to the scale of an individual person. And then pull out to a macro view of the country or city. This micro/macro pairing just works for me. It’s graphic without being gratuitous. Simple and but not sanitized.

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Speaking of data, there was quite a kerfuffle a few weeks back over the release of a Pew Research report demonstrating that the number of gun deaths has been going down since a peak in the mid 90’s. According to Pew:

Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.

Maybe we’re just better at understanding the gravity of these numbers? Perhaps it isn’t that we think crime is statistically increasing. Rather, increased access to information, personal stories, and illustrative data design lets us understand just how bad gun violence is. Perhaps our awareness of firearms-related deaths is increasing even as the actual number has been decreasing?

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Guns for Kids

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Images from the website of Keystone Sporting Arms, via MotherJones

Mother Jones recently ran a piece about Keystone Sporting Arms, the company that made and sold the child’s rifle used by a 5-year-old in the accidental shooting of his sister last week. The story is accompanied by images from the company’s “kid’s corner” photo gallery. Children, mostly girls, ranging in age from about 4 months to 14 years are shown posing with their rifles or proudly pointing to paper targets or dead animals.

But when I look at these pictures, I don’t see Future Gun Nuts of America but rather young people who are working to master a skill that takes a challenging amount of responsibility. These kids probably feel very good to be trusted with something potentially deadly– and satisfied when they use it properly. I know this probably a controversial stance but I see teaching an elementary schooler to correctly store, care for, and shoot a rifle as not too far from teaching a 4 year old how to chop carrots (not to mention this 11-month-old using a machete). Giving kids responsibility and challenging them in a safe environment with child-appropriate tools is probably a good thing.

That said, I don’t think it is appropriate to market firearms directly to children. But that is mostly because I don’t think products should be marketed to children at all. In 1980, the Canadian province of Quebec banned advertising aimed at youth under the age of 13 with a 1989 Supreme Court Ruling that “advertising directed at young children is per se manipulative. Such advertising aims to promote products by convincing those who will always believe.” Adult consumers have enough trouble parsing the constant bombardment of ads. I don’t think that most children are adept at separating marketing fiction from fact.

That said, The New York Times‘ coverage of the guns-marketed-to-youth trend is a undeniably chilling. Dr. Jess P. Shatkin, the director of undergraduate studies in child and adolescent mental health at New York University, is quoted in the NYT story saying that

young people are naturally impulsive and that their brains “are engineered to take risks,” making them ill suited for handling guns. “There are lots of ways to teach responsibility to a kid,” Dr. Shatkin said. “You don’t need a gun to do it.”

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