While President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have emphasized the national murder rate when discussing their strategies for tackling violent crime, The Trace has argued that drilling down to the neighborhood level is the best way to understand gun violence. New data appears to bolster the case that murder inequality is one of the starkest, and most consequential, forms of inequality.
The Guardian and the Gun Violence Archive have mapped gun murders in 2015 to the neighborhood level, a project that shows how even within cities deemed “violent,” risk is not evenly distributed. St. Louis, as a prime example, had the highest homicide rate per capita in the United States over the last three years. The homicide rates in several neighborhoods in the city are so high that — as we’ve noted — they exceeded those in Honduras, the deadliest country in the world. In other neighborhoods, especially those that are majority white, the risk is negligible.
Using The Guardian’s data, we identified the 15 census tracts where the most lives were lost in fatal shootings in 2015. Five of these tracts appear so high in the rankings because of single incidents that may sound familiar. They are home to places where a total of 31 lives were lost in mass-casualty shootings, including a biker bar in Waco, Texas, where nine people were killed in a shootout, and a home in Houston, where eight people — including six children — were killed in a horrific domestic shooting.
We would wager that you haven’t heard about the gun deaths that happened in the other 10 census tracts with the most fatal shootings. The people who died in violent parts of St. Louis, or New Orleans, or Chicago, are victims of what we think of as everyday gun violence. Because people are shot so often, and because the victims are overwhelmingly poor, and black, news about individual incidents rarely punches through to the national consciousness.
Here’s an overview of America’s deadliest census tracts in 2015:
16 dead in 1 incident
In any given year, the census tract that appears at the top of this list is not so hard to guess. Mass shootings, also known as rampage shootings, attract huge media attention. In 2015, the most lethal of these attacks was carried out in San Bernardino, a down-on-its-heels industrial city east of Los Angeles, in California’s Inland Empire. On December 2, 2015, two attackers who had declared fealty to the Islamic State fatally shot 14 people at a county public health department’s Christmas party. The perpetrators were killed by police later that afternoon.