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How Good Design Is Helping To Create A Gun Control Movement That Lasts

Everytown for Gun Safety is illustrating the sobering statistics behind gun violence in an easy-to-understand way.

86: The number of Americans killed every day by guns. 74: The death toll from shootings at schools since the “never again” 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School up until June 2014.

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The numbers that represent the gun violence epidemic in America are as controversial as they are striking. Everytown for Gun Safety, a 2-million member group formed earlier this year with a name and branding that evokes the broad support base for gun safety measures, is mobilizing a movement based on sobering statistics like these. The group’s clean graphics, often shared widely on social media the wake of shootings, focus on a single number that punches you in the gut.

The organization is a finalist for Fast Company’s 2014 Innovation By Design awards, which will be announced on October 15th

“We don’t think this is a partisan issue. We are trying to reach the people who are most motivated among the 90% who already agree with us,” says communications director Erika Soto Lamb.


Everytown for Gun Safety, with Purpose

Everytown, an organization with about 50 staff members, came together as the collaboration of two groups that already existed: Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization formed in 2006 by mayors of cities affected by gun violence, and Moms Demand Action, a group formed in the wake of Sandy Hook by a motivated mother. (She was looking for the gun violence equivalent of “Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” and when she couldn’t find one, started her own Facebook group).

“If you asked someone five years ago, what is a group working on gun violence prevention–it’s not something that the average citizen knew how to get involved with. That’s what we’re trying to change,” says digital strategy director Ravi Garla.

One challenge for the group is taking the array of numbers around gun violence, simplifying them and putting them into a powerful context. In one popular graphic created in conjunction with the firm Purpose, the group shows the statistic that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is 20 times higher than in other developed countries. To visualize this number, it shows bullets in the shape of an American flag, where the different colors represent the higher likelihood of dying by a gun in this country.

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Everytown for Gun Safety, with Echo & Co.

Because pro-gun activists often aim to debunk their claims, the group tries to be transparent about their research. In June, when they released statistics showing that 74 people had died in school shootings since Newtown, they stated how they defined “school shooting” and listed every incident on their website. Opponents challenged their numbers, and several media outlets covered the controversy–but at least their data was out there.

In the end, their movement includes hunters and ex-law enforcement officials, i.e. people who like guns, but want more common-sense safety measures, such as background checks. Soto Lamb stresses that they are not “anti-gun.” And though change has been dishearteningly slow to come at the federal level, they are making progress with state and local laws.

On the horizon is the November 2014 mid-term elections, for which Everytown is trying to create for a “Gun Sense Voter.” Its goal is to bring 1 million people to the polls to vote for candidates based on their stance on the issue of gun reforms, just as other voters decide their vote on single issues like health care, immigration, and of course, pro-gun sentiment. “For the first time, we want to make gun violence prevention a voting issue,” says Soto Lamb.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.

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