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 Anthony Cave 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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Sgt. Brandon White of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office puts a cable lock on a training Glock on January 14, 2019, in Portland, Oregon. The Sheriff's office gives out gun locks for free to anyone who wants one.
Jonathan Levinson, OPB

In his Portland, Oregon, home, Austin Meyers stands in front of his gun safe and explains how he stores his ammo, his pistols and his rifle.

He puts a cable lock on his matte Glock handgun, about to demonstrate how fast he could unlock it and load a magazine if he had to in an emergency.

Illustration by Matthew Warlick / For Guns & America

Stephanie Bond was married to her husband for almost 22 years before he called her into the master bedroom one afternoon in February 2010.

"He pulled out a .45-caliber gun and shot me three times in our walk-in closet with three of the four children at the home," Bond said.

A 2017 study found that 4.6 million young people in the U.S. live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.
Chris Haxel, KCUR

Rates of youth suicide are higher in states with high gun ownership, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

'Ballistic Fingerprint' Database Expands Amid Questions About Its Precision

Jan 16, 2019
Portland Police Officer Ray Kerridge searches a car after she and gang enforcement officers found three people in a car with loaded guns in front of a high school homecoming football game in Portland, Ore.
Jonathan Levinson / Oregon Public Broadcasting

At the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct, Officer Jason Hubert is getting ready to fire a confiscated handgun into a thick metal bullet trap filled with a thick sludge called snake oil.

Trying To Open A Gun Store? Wait Until After The Government Shutdown

Jan 11, 2019
Caption Gun dealers waiting on approval for federal firearms licenses will have to wait some more: no pending applications will processed until the end of the partial shutdown of the federal government.
Credit Leigh Paterson, KUNC

Waiting on a federal firearms license to open your gun shop? Got an application pending to transfer a machine gun? You're out of luck until the government shutdown ends, after which you'll be at the mercy of a lengthy backlog.

For One Colorado Rancher, An AR-15 Is A Tool To Protect His Herd

Jan 10, 2019
Of the dozens of firearms Scott Shepherd owns, he says the AR-15 is probably his favorite.
Leigh Paterson / KUNC

Scott and JJ Shepherd live in a white house at the end of a dirt road in Walden, Colorado, a small town near the Wyoming border. The picture window above the sink in their kitchen frames a view: black cattle and a barn in the foreground, mountains in the distance, dark and dusted with snow.

That day, Scott had laid out some of his guns on the kitchen table. He isn’t sure how many he owns.

What Are Universal Background Checks? Here Is A Breakdown

Jan 8, 2019
Wanenmacher's Tulsa Arms Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be among the thousands of gun shows across the country affected by legislation requiring universal background checks on gun sales.
Chris Haxel, KCUR

Lawmakers this week are reintroducing federal legislation that would require background checks on nearly all gun purchases — what they call "universal background checks." But what are universal background checks? Let's take a look at what they would — and would not — entail.

Charlie Fowler recalls this bullet from celebratory gunfire going through his patio on New Year's Eve in 2013. Fowler has lived in the Kessler Park neighborhood of Dallas, Texas for the last 50 years.
Anthony Cave

Shooting your gun into the air on New Year's Eve — or any celebratory gunfire, for that matter — can have deadly consequences. That might seem obvious, but along with party poppers, fireworks and champagne, it remains a staple at some celebrations.

Brooks Creighton, 10, holds a Space Blaster toy at Learning Express Toys and Gifts in Durham, North Carolina. He says he's grown up with BB guns and nerf guns in his home.
Adhiti Bandlamudi / North Carolina Public Radio

Toy guns have been a popular item on Christmas gift wish lists for decades. Little Ralphie Parker from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story spends most of the movie wishing for a "Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle."

Many toy guns look more real than toy, however, which has city officials, law enforcement and safety experts across the country urging parents to use extreme caution when purchasing them for children.

The Trump Administration says it will soon place a federal ban on bump stocks, the gun attachments that allow semi-automatic rifles to fire faster. Ten states banned the plastic device after it was used by a gunman in Las Vegas to shoot and kill 58 people in 2017.

Without any enhancement, semi-automatic rifles fire one bullet per trigger pull. Bump stocks harness the gun’s recoil to speed up the rate of fire, allowing the gun to pump out bullets faster.

It isn’t every day three women in their seventies walk into a gun store.

Stephanie Nugent is the rookie, a first-time shooter who before today had never held more than a water gun.

Mary Knox is proficient: Two years ago she was “petrified,” but overcame arthritic hands and bought her own pistol for self-defense.

Then there’s Karen Corum, who has long had an interest in shooting and says she has “always been fairly good at it.” She got Knox into the shooting sports and the duo now shoots together almost every week.

Gun issues haven’t always been important to Dr. Erik Wallace.

As a young kid growing up in Northern California, Wallace discovered his dad’s handgun in a dresser drawer but was scared of what his dad would do if he touched it. He had a BB gun when he was young but preferred to play baseball, and has never been interested in hunting.

But his relationship with guns completely changed seven years ago when one of his patients threatened to kill him.

One day not long ago, James Banks, 18, was sitting in his house in the St. Clair–Superior neighborhood in Cleveland. He picked up a tape recorder and turned it on.

“If you can really listen out the window, to two streets down, it just sounded like a full-on war out there,” Banks said.

The sounds were coming from a shooting right around the corner at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday.

Laws that allow people to use deadly force when threatened — without requiring them to first retreat — have been sweeping across the nation for over a decade. Today, depending on your definition, “stand your ground” is law in well over half of American states.

Gun deaths in the U.S. have been driving down black life expectancy at a significantly higher rate than for white Americans. That’s according to a new study led by Boston University researchers, funded by the National Institute of Justice.

Co-author Bindu Kalesan is an epidemiologist and data scientist at Boston University. She said plenty is already known about the rates of gun deaths for different racial groups in the U.S.

Tyler Tiller and his 10-year-old daughter, Taylor, sit perched on a log overlooking a fog-encased forest below. They’re just off a mountainous dirt road in western Oregon. The sun is setting and with it, their last chance to shoot a doe this season.

Neither seems to care much. Their excursions aren’t really about hunting.

A TSA officer looks at a monitor while checking a bag in the screening lane at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, May 25, 2016, in Atlanta. In 2017, TSA found more guns in carry-ons at the airport than at any other.
Associated Press

More than 771 million people passed through airport security across the country last year. And mixed in among the liquids and wrapped presents, Transportation Security Administration agents are finding something else in passengers’ carry-ons: thousands of loaded guns.

On the third weekend of every month is the Austin Highway Gun Show, where there are rows of tables with vendors with guns laid out for inspection and purchase. Would-be buyers slowly stroll through the venue, gazing at the pistols, rifles, semiautomatics and shotguns.


Tens of thousands of Americans die by suicide each year; it is a leading cause of death among working-age men in the U.S. In Colorado, 56 percent of men who die by suicide used a firearm.

If you want to know how a felon buys a gun, think about how a teenager might buy alcohol.

First, find a willing friend or family member, or maybe even a stranger at a liquor store who wants to make a quick buck. Then give this person some cash, tell them your drink of choice, and wait.

If you’re careful, this transaction — called a “straw purchase” — is impossible to detect. Clerks don’t often hassle a person over 21 who walks alone into a liquor store.

Last year’s Black Friday set the single-day record for gun background checks run — 203,086.

When you buy a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer, they’re required to run a background check.

While there is no tally of guns sold in the U.S., there is a daily count of background check requests from the FBI and it’s generally considered the best way to measure gun sales.

At the signing of the U.S. Gun Control Act on Oct. 22, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson hailed the bill as the first step in disarming “the criminal, and the careless, and the insane.”

Wilfredo Lee / AP

RJ Young was trying to win over his future father-in-law. So, he started shooting guns. 

Young is a black gun owner and NRA-certified pistol instructor. But, that decision was borne out of anger. 

When Congress passed the 1968 Gun Control Act, it was one of the first attempts by the federal government to address who was too dangerous to buy a firearm. In the 50 years since, our understanding of mental illness has become more nuanced, while federal regulations largely have not.

Kaufman County Sheriff's Office via AP, File

When Officer Amber Guyger fatally shot Botham Jean in his apartment, she was off duty, coming home after working a long shift. But was she acting as a Dallas police officer when she pulled the trigger? Lawyers say she might have been, and that could have big legal implications.

Kaufman County Sheriff's Office Jail via AP

Updated, 7:21 a.m. Tuesday

The Dallas Police Department has fired officer Amber Guyger, almost three weeks after she shot and killed her black neighbor in his apartment. 

Tom Fox / The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool

Guns, the Second Amendment, school shootings and this month's shooting death of Botham Jean were all testy topics for Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke during Friday night's U.S. Senate debate at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Just after 9 a.m. EDT on Thursday, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office received a call of an active shooter at a business park in Aberdeen, Maryland.

The alleged shooter was a 26-year-old temporary employee of the Rite Aid distribution center who arrived to work and opened fire, killing three people and injuring several others before turning the gun on herself, according to law enforcement officials.

Brandon Wade / AP

A white Dallas police officer has moved out of the apartment complex where she shot and killed her black neighbor inside his own home.

Jeff Montgomery / Harding University via AP

Update, 7:09 a.m. Tuesday

A white Dallas police officer said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot her black neighbor and went into the hallway to check the address, according to an affidavit released Monday.

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