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Map shows gunshots near D.C. schools

September 9, 2014

The debate over guns in schools is a hot topic everyone’s familiar with. But what about guns near schools? Near enough, say, to be dangerous to children during their school day?

That’s the focus of a recently created map of inner city Washington, D.C. schools and gunshots. To develop the map, the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, based in D.C., worked with data from ShotSpotter, a system of microphones that detect gunfire over 17 square miles of the city. The map shows that during the 2011-2012 school year, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., 54 percent of gunshots were fired within 1,000 feet of a school.

From John Haslam.

Fifty-four percent of gunshots were fired within 1,000 feet of a school. From John Haslam.

How far is 1,000 feet really? Taken as a simple measurement, it can seem quite long. A football field, for example, is only 300 feet in length. Still, the data is quite alarming. Guns fired at 1,000 feet from a school can hurt children, teachers and other employees. Bullets can travel, of course, up to 5 miles depending on the type of gun used. Not only that, gunshots were detected between 8 and 9 a.m. and 3 and 4 p.m. at 25 of the schools on the map. During those hours, kids, teachers and employees have to travel to and from school property, which could also put them within range of a bullet.

Concerns have been raised as well about the effects of hearing gun violence during an otherwise normal day. It’s easy enough to hear the sound of gunfire from 1,000 feet away (scroll down here to listen) and understand what it is. Worse, the data shows some shots were fired within 500 feet of a school. The sound is much louder from that distance.

Nancy LaVigne and Sam Bieler, of the Justice Policy Center, plan to study the effects of hearing gunfire next. Their research should be able to tell us if gunshots make students fearful, whether their academic performance suffers as a result, and whether they use guns themselves.

With enough understanding of the problem, the hope is that something can be done to correct it. The data and research give law enforcement and schools solid information to work with to create safer environments for learning and success.

Modern technology has a lot of frivolous uses, but a positive here is that this is not one of them. In this case, technology could help make lasting changes to put a new generation on track for a better future.

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Category: Guns

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