Guns & America

Attendees stand during the Oct. 22 silent vigil, for mothers of people who've been killed by police, at the Dallas Police Department.
Keren Carrion / KERA

According to the national database Fatal Encounters, an average of 1,500 people have been killed annual during interactions with police since 2000. And about 70% of those killings happen with guns.

Armed men at polling places. Post-election violence. These are not scenes typically associated with American democracy. But that’s exactly what extremism experts are warning could happen on and after Nov. 3. And the anti-government groups these experts are concerned about are likely to be a force long after the election, regardless of outcome.

Protestors at the March For Our Lives on March 24, 2018. Gun violence researchers say the lack of data makes it hard to understand the impact gun violence has on local economies, and how to go about the best solutions.
Victoria Chamberlin / WAMU

On Oct. 21, the District of Columbia hit a grim milestone for the year — 10 assaults with a firearm in one day. Data from the Metropolitan Police Department also showed 140 gun deaths since January, outpacing last year’s numbers with two more months to go on the calendar.

Drifters Western Bar And Grill is a no-nonsense diner in a red wooden building just past the sign that welcomes you to Emida, Idaho. Elk and deer mounts adorn the wall, and maple leaf flags remind you that you’re just three hours south of the Canadian border.

This is where Hank Thornton started his rounds on a recent warm September day. He’s partial to Drifters’ omelettes, but that’s not what brought him here.

“They’ve got a great breakfast here,” he said. “But no, it’s not just to get breakfast.”

Jack Sinclair first started donating to groups that support stricter gun regulations in 2013 — after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“After the Las Vegas shooting, I decided it was time to stop being just a periodic donor, and I became a monthly donor,” Sinclair said, referring to the October 2017 incident in which a shooter opened fire on hundreds of concertgoers at a music festival.

He got more involved: He lived in California at the time and joined a local chapter of Moms Demand Action.

Grieving Murdered Children During A Pandemic

Oct 19, 2020

Marion Bailey lost her grandson Javaun D. Graves five years ago. He was murdered in Durham, North Carolina.

“I felt like I had a hole in my stomach,” Bailey said. “And that I didn’t think it would ever be sealed again. I just felt like part of me was missing, it was gone.”

She says her faith was the only thing that pulled her through after Graves was shot while standing next to a vehicle and talking to his girlfriend.

A new study shows rural congressional districts have far higher suicide rates than urban ones and that firearms are a major factor.

The study from gun control advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety underscores a rural-urban divide exacerbated by uneven access to mental health care and the relationship between access to firearms and suicide rates.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has set the stage for a historic shift in the court’s makeup and could significantly change how the court views any given gun law in relation to the Second Amendment.

Firearms sales have surged this year. That has led to a corresponding backlog of background checks, which gun regulation advocates worry will lead to more prohibited purchases.

How Many People In The U.S. Own Guns?

Sep 17, 2020

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

This article is an installment of the Three Types of Loss series. It examines the different types of loss three families experienced following the death of Karlonzo Taylor and wounding of James Harris in a December 2018 shooting in Hartford, Connecticut. The alleged shooter, Bill Moore, is incarcerated. You can read other stories in this series here and here.

This article is an installment of the Three Types of Loss series. It examines the different types of loss three families experienced following the death of Karlonzo Taylor and wounding of James Harris in a December 2018 shooting in Hartford, Connecticut. The alleged shooter, Bill Moore, is incarcerated. You can read other stories in this series here and here.

When someone fires a gun in Youngstown, Victoria Allen usually hears it — at least on her phone. Allen, who runs the ICU Neighborhood Watch group on Youngstown’s south side, has access to the city’s Shot Spotter app, which records the sound, time and location of gunshots.

On a recent August weekday, Allen was driving to a house that was the site of at least two shootings in the last two days.

In late May, a Waffle House employee in Colorado was shot and wounded. The reason? A patron allegedly grew angry after the employee told him to wear a mask, according to multiple reports.

Gun violence prevention found the spotlight like never before at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. It’s the latest sign that what was once considered a controversial, third-rail topic has become a core issue for the Democratic Party.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden is seen as a centrist, and this year’s DNC was clearly designed at least in part to woo Republicans disenchanted with President Donald Trump.

Latest Shot Fired In Lead Ammo Debate

Aug 20, 2020

The latest round in the fight over lead ammunition is working its way through Congress.

A bill introduced in July by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) would ban lead ammunition on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services land. The agency is responsible for administering national wildlife refuges, which cover 95 million acres across the country — much of that prime hunting ground.

One of Kamala Harris’ more forceful platforms as a presidential candidate was to enact stricter gun control measures, and it’s a platform that she might continue to promote as a vice presidential candidate.

Who Is Most At Risk For Police Violence?

Aug 10, 2020

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

Over the past several years, the problem of police violence in the U.S. has garnered worldwide attention: the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015; and George Floyd in May 2020, among others.

Gun Sales Continued To Rise In July

Aug 4, 2020

Americans bought near-record numbers of guns in July, according to industry estimates, continuing a sales boom experts say is unprecedented.

Gun stores sold 2 million firearms in July, according to estimates from Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, a year-over-year increase of 134.6%. SAAF estimates that the bulk of those sales were handgun purchases — continuing a monthslong trend.

On a muggy July evening in Durham, North Carolina, a black sedan pulled up to a party. Men got out of what police believe to be a Chevrolet Impala and opened fire on the partygoers gathered in the front yard.

Two young children, ages 8 and 4, were injured in the attack.

Later that night, another shooting — possibly related, according to police — took place at a Durham public housing development about five miles away. A stray bullet flew into an adjacent apartment unit, killing a 12-year-old boy.

Gun Store Robberies Are On The Rise

Jul 20, 2020

Thieves stole more than 1,000 firearms from gun stores across the country in just over one week this spring, according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. The ATF says thefts of gun stores are on the rise.

To put that in perspective, that haul between May 28-June 5 would have accounted for nearly one-fifth of the roughly 5,600 guns reported stolen in all of 2019.

Thomas Chittum, ATF deputy director for field operations, says a lot of that appears to be tied to unrest around the country in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

Do Safe Storage Gun Laws Prevent Gun Violence?

Jul 15, 2020

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

Left unsecured, guns can be dangerous. While many experts suggest that storing firearms locked away and separate from ammunition can save lives, there is no federal law requiring gun owners to do so.

Steven Weiss was protesting in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center. It was June 19, three weeks into near-nightly protests against systemic racism and police violence. Those protests routinely culminated each night with police resorting to violence to disperse hundreds of nonviolent protesters.

The recent wave of civil unrest against police brutality after the killing of George Floyd highlights the increased militarization of American law enforcement — including for officers on college campuses.

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have helped spur an increase in gun sales. New preliminary research suggests those additional sales could be linked to higher rates of gun violence.

Armed counterprotesters have confronted anti-racism rallies in at least 33 states, according to a new analysis by Guns & America.

Gun sales continued to mushroom in June, apparently due to a confluence of Joe Biden’s surge in polls, the spread of COVID-19, and ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Americans bought 2.4 million firearms in June, according to industry estimates from Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting. That is a 145% increase from June 2019. Handgun sales make up the bulk of those estimates and increased at an even higher year-over-year rate of 178%.

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.

In cities like Denver, Detroit and Chicago, summer jobs programs are a key strategy in youth gun violence prevention. But this summer, the pandemic is forcing many cities to scramble to move these programs online while dealing with budget restrictions.

Pages