Wednesday (March 18)'s shooting of 6 people in Mesa, Arizona is a stark reminder of the frequency of gun violence in the United States. We hear about stories like this far too often, and unlike what happened in AZ, sometimes we hardly notice them.
Perhaps it was a blip on your feed. Or a headline you hopped over to get to the next Kardashian story. It didn't happen in your town, so maybe you didn't think to click.
But in January 2015, 27-year-old Brendan Brown did. Every time he could. When he wasn't at his job developing apps, Brown spent two or three hours every day searching for links about incidents of gun violence in the U.S. and building a site cataloging each one he found.
He admits not every story made it to the news local or national news, but he searched as deep as he could and the results were posted on his site on Sunday. Each has a short description of the incident and a link to the original story.
MTV News spoke to Brown about the project, how it affected him and what he plans to do next.
MTV News: You said you develop financial apps for a company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but do you have an interest in policy issues like gun violence as well?
Brendan Brown: I just learned how to do this kind of programming, but I've been in politics before. I worked for Congressman David Scott from Georgia and on Senator Barbara Boxer's campaign in 2010. I was also in the Peace Corps in Paraguay.
MTV: Was there a particular incident that inspired you to build the site?
Brown: I just started noticing things. I noticed all these headlines and they just kept coming. After a certain point, I realized that all these stories were directly affecting people's lives, but they just remained un-clicked links to the general public. It's easy to ignore when you see there was a shooting in Omaha and it involved this person. But when faced with a name, an age and how it affects this family ... what stupid circumstance led up to them being shot ... you see all those circumstances side-by-side and it's harder to ignore.
MTV: What stood out for you once you started collecting the stories?
Brown: You get all these stories [concerning gun violence], but people don't have a problem ignoring them. But you put them all together. ... School shootings get a lot of press and now police shootings or [shootings of] unarmed African-Americans. This was an attempt to focus all that outrage and grief people have over certain issues and make it more broad.
MTV: Do you own a gun?
Brown: I don't have a gun. I'm pretty against them in general.
MTV: Does the site reflect your personal feelings about guns?
Brown: I have my own views on gun control, but I didn’t want to put that into the site. It's aimed at people who are either on the fence or pretty pro-gun. It's legitimate to have those views [on the Second Amendment], and you won't convince anyone with a liberal screed. So I wanted to make it an objective and dispassionate appeal to humanity.
MTV: Why didn't you include any pictures or graphics? Wouldn't that have made it even more impactful?
Brown: I thought about that at first ... but I also just wanted to make it very minimalist and have it be like, 'Here are the names, here are the stories.'
MTV: Have you gotten any reaction or pushback from gun rights advocates?
Brown: Not yet. It's not just aimed at them. I have my own views, but I think it just gives you a better perspective on the issues. If you are pro-Second Amendment and you read this, you at least get a sense that there's something to be done when [in 2013] 11,000 people were killed by guns. It's not a tenable situation. Gun violence has gone down a lot, but look at the numbers in comparable countries like Japan, [which had 11 gun homicides in 2008] or the U.K., which had 41.
MTV: When you were compiling the information, what surprised you about what you found?
Brown: I obviously didn’t get everything. I searched Google News every day for two-and-a-half or three hours for shootings. I didn't find everything, but one thing I noticed was just the immensity of how many stories are out there and how it's impossible to keep track of all of them. I just kept clicking on results page and I'd go 20 pages deep and at some point I had to stop.
But also just reading the descriptions. If you're reading about a school shooting you are interested in how it happened, what led up to it, and what leads up to a lot of these stories is something that seems ridiculous. A feud between a father and son over who was allowed to drive the car. Or between friends over something at Home Depot. The context made it seem so trivial why someone lost their life.
MTV: How did spending all that time researching these incidents make you feel?
Brown: It’s tough to wade through all that. It takes a toll. It’s worth it if there's an end goal, a product that will come out and hopefully do something in a small way.