Guns & America | KUNC

Guns & America

Guns & America is a groundbreaking national reporting collaborative in which 10 public media newsrooms train their attention on a singular issue: the role of guns in American life.

Over the course of two years, the 10 stations, representing a diverse range of communities all over the country, will report on how guns impact us as Americans, from the cultural significance of hunting and sport shooting, to the role guns play in suicide, homicide, mass shootings and beyond.

Operating across broadcast and online platforms, the Guns & America team will approach the topic of guns with nuance, accuracy, imagination, and innovative cross-platform storytelling. Expect to see our reporting online and to hear memorable stories on a public radio station near you.

The 10 public media stations participating in Guns & America:

  • WAMU - Washington, D.C.
  • WNPR - Hartford, Connecticut
  • WUNC - Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • WABE - Atlanta
  • ideastream - Cleveland
  • KCUR - Kansas City, Missouri
  • KERA - Dallas
  • KUNC - Greeley, Colorado
  • Boise State Public Radio - Boise, Idaho
  • OPB - Portland, Oregon

The reporter for Guns & America at KUNC is Leigh Paterson.

The COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence have put the country on edge, and the unrest appears to be a recruiting opportunity for some anti-government groups.

Experts say economic devastation, fear and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus — as well as heavy-handed government tactics — are pushing some Americans toward groups like militias that espouse self-reliance, armed resistance and a dim view of government.

Owning a handgun significantly increases one’s risk of suicide, according to a study published Thursday that tracked new gun owners in California for more than a decade.

Mental health experts and researchers have long known that gun ownership suggests an increased risk of suicide, but the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine adds a new level of detail.

Gun sales continued to boom in May, the third-straight month with a spike in estimated sales.

Americans bought more than 1.7 million firearms in May, according to estimates from industry analyst Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting. That is down from an estimated 1.8 million firearms in April, but an 80% year-over-year estimated increase.

The FBI says it performed more than 3 million background checks in its NICS database in May, more than 700,000 more checks than it performed in May 2019.

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 groups of people in the U.S. are at risk for gun suicide, according to new research from Columbia University Medical Center. These include people with lower incomes, those living with disabilities, and people who are socially isolated.

The global pandemic is putting a strain on Americans’ mental health. There’s been a surge of calls to crisis lines in the past two months. Add a spike in gun sales to that , and experts say we may be at risk of a suicide epidemic.

Tiny Montpelier, Idaho, may already be taking the brunt of pandemic fallout. In that town of just 2,500 and the surrounding Bear Lake Valley — a picturesque, remote corner of the state known for its namesake turquoise lake — there were five suicides in a three-week span of April. Another two deaths are being investigated.

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.

Air Force Launches New Gun Cable Lock Safety Program

May 8, 2020

More airmen died by suicide in 2019 than have been killed in combat operations during America’s 18-year-long war in Afghanistan.

Last year, 137 uniformed airmen and Air Force civilian employees died by suicide, representing a 33% increase versus 2018’s data. The Air Force hopes a new initiative — distribution of free cable-style locks for personal firearms — will begin to slow the trend.

Portland Police Bureau Assistant Chief Andrew Shearer delivered grim news to Mayor Ted Wheeler and a pair of city commissioners during a February budget meeting.

“As of Monday of this week, in the year 2020, a shooting incident has occurred on average every 13 hours,” said Shearer. “So far this year, someone has been struck by gunfire a little over every two days.”

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