Cook County, home to a city so infamous it has multiple nicknames inspired by its murder totals, has a smaller rate of gun deaths than many would expect.
So will ya please stop calling Chicago the “murder capital” in the Facebook comments you leave on our articles?
In an interactive map made by The Oregonian with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of gun deaths in every county in America between the years 2004 and 2010 are displayed for all to see. The visualization is striking, especially in the wake of recent talks of gun control.
At a glance, the map shows that rates of gun deaths in the south and parts of the western United States are drastically high. Conversely, parts of California, Washington state and states north of the Mason-Dixon Line seeing noticeably smaller rates.
Compiling gun deaths from homicides, suicides and accidental deaths, the map shows the number of gun deaths per 100,000 people. This method accounts for population, displaying the likelihood of a gun death in a city, instead of a total.
For Cook County, the rate of gun deaths between 2004 and 2010 was 9.31 with a population of 5,188,229 people.
The rate of McHenry County, which is just to the northwest of Cook County and has a population of 301,728 people, was slightly higher: 9.41.
How many gun deaths is that total? That would be about 483 gun deaths per year between 2004 and 2010 for Cook and 28 gun deaths for McHenry.
Cook has a higher total, but McHenry has a higher rate per their population.
Other nearby counties with higher rates of gun death include:
Lake County, Illinois 10.03
Will County 10.23
Kankakee County 10.64
When you go to the southern part of Illinois near St. Louis, you see a spike in the rate of gun deaths:
Washington County 13.2
St. Louis County, Missouri 13.59
Madison County 13.17
St. Clair County 15.1
Sadly, things look grim just over the Illinois-Indiana border, too. Lake County, Indiana; Kankakee County; Porter County; Jasper County and Newton County all have gun death rates higher than Chicago’s, with Porter County’s rate of gun deaths reaching 16.03 and Newton’s reaching 16.84.
Of course, it’s important not to put too much meaning into how counties measure up against each other. Counties can be vastly different in many ways, especially in regards to population. Porter and Newton Counties may have similar rates, but their populations are quite different — 159,939 and 14,339 respectively. This population difference will lead to vastly different totals, despite their close rates.
“To some degree the split is urban vs. rural,” Steve Suo of The Oregonian wrote.
“New England and the Midwest were relatively low on the scale of gun deaths,” he went on to elaborate. “Vast, vast sections of the South experience very high rates of death by gun. Rural Oregon and other major swaths of the non-urbanized West were disproportionately hit by firearm fatalities.”
It’s important to remember that statistics like these are not a competition. They can add perspective, but do not solely speak of the quality of a city, county or state.
See the interactive map here.