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.

A Florida teen arrived at Denver International Airport last week and then purchased a shotgun at a gun store in the suburb of Littleton. What followed was a massive, frantic manhunt and the closure of schools all over northern Colorado. Questions about the legality of that gun purchase persist.

Two years after an explosion at a crucial Army factory that is the country’s largest producer of small-caliber ammunition, the true cause of Lawrence Bass Jr.’s death remains unclear.

Bass, a long-time employee, followed explosives-handling procedures later deemed to be poorly written. He worked for a defense contractor anxious to slash costs on a government contract it had underbid.

Students
Leigh Paterson / KUNC

On Saturday, the day before Easter, people gathered in Clement Park next to Columbine High School, with hundreds in blue folding chairs and hundreds more sitting on the green lawn surrounding a stage.

"We are here on the sacred day, on this sacred ground to be a community of healing, redemption, faith and service," Pastor James Hoxworth said.

As the wind blew and the bright, sunny sky turned to gray, speakers remembered April 20, 1999 during an event to commemorate that day.

After decades of decline, the rate of Americans killing their intimate partners has seen “a sharp increase” in recent years. Data shows that uptick is exclusively due to gun-related murders.

The families of several people who were killed or wounded in a 2016 mass shooting near Wichita, Kansas, have reached a multimillion-dollar settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the pawn store that sold some of the guns used in the attack.

The lawsuit alleged that local retailer A Pawn Shop sold the guns to a woman as part of a straw purchase, which occurs when one person buys a gun on behalf of someone else, circumventing background checks and federal law.

Columbine Memorial
Leigh Paterson / KUNC

For generations, many activists who have called for stricter gun regulations can point to a mass shooting that spurred them to act. Movements sprung from Sandy Hook, the Pulse nightclub shooting, Parkland — and the list continues to grow.

Columbine was no different.

Columbine High School
Leigh Paterson / KUNC

It looks a lot like any other high school: blue lockers, fluorescent overhead lights, kids carrying musical instruments and gym bags.

But Columbine High School's history as a site of a deadly school shooting sets it apart. Some of the changes are physical — the building has a new library to replace the old one, where a majority of the students were killed that day. Now, a plaque is mounted at the library's entrance, dedicated to the 13 victims.

Evan Todd
Leigh Paterson / KUNC

Evan Todd still has sharp memories of April 20, 1999. As a sophomore at Columbine High School, he was in the library with his friends on that cool, sunny morning, attempting to write a paper but really just goofing off, throwing around wads of paper.

In an instant everything changed. Todd described an explosion, smoke, and then pops of gunfire echoing through the hallways. He felt a rush of adrenaline as panic set in around him.

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