Maggie Koerth-Baker tries to untangle some very incomplete data sets:
People may or may not call the cops to report domestic violence or an assault by someone they know. If the cops are called, the situation may or may not be taken seriously enough that it’s logged in any meaningful way. And if the violent incident in question isn’t technically a crime – shooting yourself in the foot, for instance, or drunkenly blowing a hole in your mother-in-law’s garage on the 4th of July – there’s no reason why that information would be reported to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, to begin with.
All those things matter very much to the people who are trying to figure out how guns are used in our society and how gun use changes over time. But there’s not really a solid, nation-wide, uniform way of tracking any of it. So what we say we know about gun violence is almost always just a synonym for what we know about gun murders.
Here are some of the rules students live by at Harper High School in Chicago: Know your geography (whether you join a gang or not, you’re in one). Never walk by yourself. Never walk with someone else. If someone shoots, don’t run. These are just a few of the exhausting complexities that face the kids at Harper High, where 29 current and former students were shot last year.