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Slate publishes US gun-death map based on anonymous tweets, won’t identify source

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David Martosko
Executive Editor

The liberal news and culture website Slate published an online map Friday that it says will show a “daily tally of gun-deaths in America,” basing that tally on incidents collected by an anonymous Twitter user. The organization, however, won’t say who is behind the tweets or how reliable its data is as a statistical compilation.

But the project has identified fewer than 700 gun-related incidents in five months of scouring North American news reports — a limited sample that a Daily Caller analysis indicates cannot represent more than 5 percent of the incidents collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Until now, the only person who seemed to be chronicling these grim happenings on a regular and timely basis is the anonymous person behind the Twitter feed @GunDeaths, who has been doing his best to tweet every reported gun death he can find,” Jocelyn Nubel wrote in an email to The Daily Caller on Friday.

Nubel is vice president of Alissa Neil PR, a firm that handles publicity for Slate.

Chris Kirk and Dan Kois wrote at Slate on Friday that they had conducted “a phone interview” with the man behind the @GunDeaths Twitter account.

But despite several requests, Nubel declined to discuss the man’s identity, and wouldn’t discuss whether he is connected to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

@GunDeaths has been tweeting anecdotal news stories about shootings since July 21. The account has sent 685 tweets. “Tweeting every gun death in North America regardless of cause and without comment,” its self-description reads on Twitter.

The Brady Center,” Kirk and Kois wrote, “has a tally atop its website of ‘people shot in America. That number, though, is an estimate, based on the number of gun injuries and deaths recorded by the CDC in 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which statistics are available.”

In fact, the CDC has released final totals for 2010 and preliminary figures for 2011.

Those statistics show that in 2011, the U.S. saw 11,101 firearm homicides and 851 accidental shooting deaths.

By comparison, 33,554 Americans were accidentally poisoned to death last year; 34,677 died in motor vehicle crashes; 38,285 took their own lives; and 26,631 died as the result of injuries sustained while falling down.

Nubel confirmed to TheDC that “Slate is not going to track other causes of death.”

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