Guns & America | KERA News

Guns & America

KERA is a part of a new national reporting collaborative that has 10 public media newsrooms training attention on the role of guns in American life.

KERA’s Hady Mawajdeh and nine other Audion Reporting Fellows across the country are exploring the impact guns have on Americans, from the cultural significance of hunting and sport shooting, to the role guns play in suicide, homicide, mass shootings and beyond. 

To learn more about the fellows and follow their reporting, visit gunsandamerica.org. For all gun-related stories, in and outside of the Guns & America project, click here.

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At anti-racism rallies and marches across the country, protesters are coming face to face with police — but also with heavily armed civilians. America’s gun laws make it difficult to diffuse the tension.

This article is part of the Guns & America explainer series. You can read other entries here.

A National Guard soldier called in to help quell protests in Louisville fatally shot Kentucky restaurant owner David McAtee.

Julie Braley found comfort in the “VB Strong” stickers that showed up in business and car windows around Virginia Beach in the wake of the coastal city’s tragic mass shooting last year.

“It was nice to see that community coming together to support each other and kind of put their arms around each other in that kind of way,” she said.

Braley works in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and was on the city committee that spent months organizing plans for the city’s public memorials. She wasn’t in the building at the time of the shooting.

More “ghost” guns — firearms built without serial numbers — are being used in crimes, leading some lawmakers to believe that kits to make these guns are becoming more popular, especially during the pandemic. But a handful of Democratic senators want those kits and the parts within them to be classified as firearms under federal law.

In many ways, life has slowed down during the coronavirus pandemic but gun violence persists, challenging outreach workers who are trying to stop the violence despite social distancing restrictions.

Gun Sales, Background Checks Still Surging

May 5, 2020

Gun sales continued to surge in April amid pandemic fears, marking the second consecutive month the industry has seen a massive year-over-year spike.

Americans bought nearly 1.8 million guns last month, according to estimates from Small Arms Analytics, which tracks the industry. Though that’s fewer sales than in March, it’s a 71% increase over sales estimates for the same time last year.

A new study shows that state laws allowing judges to temporarily remove firearms from at-risk people can lower suicide rates among older adults. It also showed that increased firearms regulations in general are associated with lower suicide rates.

An official at the U.S. Department of Justice is warning of an increase in domestic violence due to the wave of recent gun-buying spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, echoing concerns advocates have raised for weeks.

As Americans flock to gun stores in the face of coronavirus fears, many gun dealers report an influx of new customers, taking home a deadly weapon for the first time. In response, long-time gun owners from across the country are stepping up to help these newcomers get some safety training in the age of social distancing.

Quantifying the number of first-time buyers is impossible, but anecdotally, gun store owners say there are many.

Employees of gun stores and gun manufacturers should be seen as “essential” workers, according to a memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published on Saturday.

Shooting For Gold: The Coronavirus Outbreak Stalls Olympic Plans

Mar 25, 2020
Vincent Hancock

Vincent Hancock, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time Olympian in skeet shooting, was looking forward to competing in Tokyo for another medal this year. But with the coronavirus outbreak, Hancock’s Olympic aspirations are put on hold.

In recent days, the Los Angeles TimesThe New York Times and other media outlets have reported a surge in gun purchases across the nation. Their stories have focused on busy gun shops, first time buyers and even delays processing background checks for gun purchases. But not everyone's able to take advantage of the high demand.

Hady Mawajdeh/KERA

As people across the country stock up on supplies to prepare for weeks of social distancing, Americans are crowding into gun stores, with firearms on their shopping list next to toilet paper and canned goods.

Domestic abusers are generally prohibited from possessing firearms, but in many states, ensuring these offenders turn over their guns is difficult. A new investigator in the Denver, Colorado, District Attorney’s office is trying to change that by removing guns case-by-case.

The investigator spends his days listening to 911 calls, scanning social media and talking to family members, looking for signs that someone who has been charged with a domestic violence-related offense and who has a restraining order against them, has a gun.

Spending on gun policy advertisements has risen sharply in recent elections, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have concluded, amid widening political divisions within the gun debate.

Over four election cycles from 2012-2018, the study, “Guns In Political Advertising Over Four US Election Cycles,” found that ads referencing guns increased from 1% of total candidate-related advertisements, to over 8% in the 2018 cycle.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

The Department of Justice has been in a years-long fight to decrease violent gun crimes. And now, it’s targeting domestic violence abusers.

sign for Pitkin County Colorado sheriff's office
Alycin Bektesh / KUNC

On January 1, 2020, Colorado joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in having a “red flag” law, a provision that allows police to temporarily seize guns from someone deemed to be an immediate threat to themselves or others. 

Firearm Deaths Hold Steady After Record-Setting 2017

Jan 29, 2020
CDC
James Gathany / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A near-record number of Americans died by gunshot in 2018 according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In most American cities, gun homicides are on the decline. But Durham, North Carolina, saw its homicide rate rise in 2019. While the community copes with feelings of chronic violence, one outreach worker is dedicating his time to ending the cycle.

On a Friday morning in December, Jenny Lingle’s house in Boise, Idaho, is buzzing with the sounds of young children. Her daughters, Ruby, 4, and Lucy, 7, and their friend, Hannah, sit at the kitchen table, chatting between bites of breakfast.

Most days, Lingle works as a nurse at a local hospital. But on days like today, she’s half of an elementary school carpool, getting her daughters and their friend ready for school.

A Packed, Peaceful Protest: Activists Descend On Virginia’s Capitol For Pro-Gun Rally

Jan 20, 2020

In the shadow of looming concern from state officials, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL)’s annual lobbying day event and rally Monday went as organizers planned with 22,000 in attendance, only one arrest and no notable issues (with the possible exception of the frigid temperature.)

Gunshot survivors experience chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical and mental health challenges at rates higher than survivors of other traumatic injuries, according to a new study by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and instituted a temporary ban on firearms from being carried on Capitol grounds, as the state prepares to deal with an influx of gun rights supporters attending a protest rally in Richmond next week.

A Lawsuit By Sandy Hook Families Is Poised To Provide A Rare Window Into The Gun Industry

Jan 15, 2020
Josh Koskoff and plantiffs at a press conference
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

A lawsuit by families of victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has the potential to significantly change what the world knows about how the gun industry thinks and operates. 

'Slide By' promo photo
Jake Nice

Dallas-based artist and musician Jake Nice is tackling his largest project to date as a director — a play called "Slide By" about guns, toxic masculinity and the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colorado.

Attorney General William Barr
Matthew Richmond / ideastream

Back in the early 1990s, there was Operation Triggerlock. A few years later, in Richmond, Virginia, they called the policy Project Exile. Now it’s called Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Josh’s girlfriend broke up with him in the fall of 2017, and it hit him hard. He became depressed, started drinking and became more withdrawn. He got into a few mountain biking accidents, which his mom, Diane, thought were intentional. She thought he was trying to hurt himself.

“And then it just seemed like all of a sudden he spiraled down bad,” Diane said.

Police officers David Riggall, left, and Nick Guadarrama, center, demonstrate how to clear a hallway intersection during a security training session at Fellowship of the Parks campus in Haslet.
Associated Press

Traditionally, sanctuary has meant "safety." But decades of mass shootings in places of worship have shaken that faith.

Twenty years ago, it was Fort Worth's Wedgwood Baptist — seven churchgoers dead. Then came 2015 and Charleston, S.C. — nine dead. Two years ago, Sutherland Springs — 26 dead. Last year, Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh — 11 dead. And just this weekend, in White Settlement outside Fort Worth — two church members dead. All of this has led sanctuaries to harden their defenses in hopes of saving lives.

Without Conclusive Data, One City Grapples With Gun-Free Zones

Dec 25, 2019
Aspen City Hall
Alycin Bektesh / For KUNC

The city council of Aspen, Colorado, voted unanimously in late October to ban the public from openly carrying guns in government buildings.

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