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Death takes no holiday: Tracking gun violence over one long January weekend

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It was after midnight, early on a Saturday in the college town of Moscow, Idaho, and student Jason "Cowboy" Monson was at the police station to get back his Desert Eagle .45-caliber handgun.
In McDonough, Ga., about the same time, two teenage brothers were still awake. A friend was sleeping over, and their mother had let the boys handle her .38-caliber revolver, which was unloaded. She'd gone to bed.

In South Valley, N.M., it was quiet at the Griego household as 15-year-old Nehemiah waited for his father to come home from the night shift at a homeless shelter. The son was holding his father's AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
In the next few hours, the freshman in Idaho, one of the brothers in Georgia, and most of the Griego family would be dead, victims of three forms of gun violence — suicide, accident and murder — that are everyday occurrences in the United States.

Their deaths, and scores of others, occurred over a holiday weekend, the third weekend in January, when America celebrated the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a victim of gun violence. It also was the weekend the nation swore in a re-elected president whose inaugural address referred to guns, though he didn’t actually say the word: "Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm."

By the end of the long weekend — after President Barack Obama had spoken and the red, white and blue confetti strewn along Pennsylvania Avenue had been cleaned up — at least 91 people across America had been killed by guns. That's more than three times the number of caskets needed in Connecticut after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. These 91 people died, not in a single burst of violence over a few minutes, but spread over a three-day weekend, like an autoworker stealing an entire convertible one part at a time to escape notice.

In the aftermath of the Dec. 14 Newtown shooting, during a renewed national debate about gun rights and gun control, NBC News picked the weekend of Jan. 19-21 to examine gun deaths across America. Today and on Monday and Tuesday, we'll tell you what we found and introduce you to some of the victims and their families. We also invite you to look at our online map and to draw your own impressions from the stories of violence.

We don't pretend to have found all the gun deaths over that weekend. There is no official census of gun deaths, and it takes the federal government many months to compile national crime and suicide statistics. We drew our list from the deaths that were reported in the press, and confirmed the details with authorities in all but a few cases. If you only want to know how many people are killed by guns on an average day in America, simply divide the annual figure, about 31,300, by 365 days, and there's your average: about 86 people a post
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