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 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.

Public health researchers across the U.S. are eager to find possible solutions to gun violence. Gun ownership data helps researchers study how guns are used in various crimes and could reveal opportunities for preventing firearm-related deaths. But there is no federal registration requirement for guns. And without concrete numbers of gun ownership, how can researchers pin down the problem?

The answer: They use alternative measurements to get a handle on the data.

Multiple states missed a March 25 deadline to submit plans for bulking up the information states report to the FBI’s background check system for gun purchases.

This comes a year after President Donald Trump signed legislation requiring states and federal agencies to add more records to the database gun dealers use when running a background check during a gun purchase.

Teachers or other school staff in districts in 31 states can legally carry weapons in schools, according to a review of state laws and local news coverage by Guns & America.

In 5 states — Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and South Dakota — teachers or other school staff are explicitly authorized by state law to carry firearms in schools, according to a report by the Education Commission of the States.

States across the country are passing gun control legislation in response to mass shootings, as groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America gain political clout. In deep red states, though, activists must both temper their expectations and reckon with residents and lawmakers often hostile to any limitations on their right to bear arms.

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