The end of the year can be particularly grim on the gun violence beat, as national death tolls and mass shooting counts are finalized, and communities across the country remember those who have been lost. Hard-won research shows more people than ever are being affected by gun violence and that, since 2020 especially, children are among the most vulnerable.
Throughout 2023, our team repeatedly confronted that darkness, as we covered the history of the American gun industry, the intersection of firearms and domestic violence, and the gun suicide crisis — which has reached record highs.
But our reporting over the past year also illuminated some auspicious, if complex, developments in public health, community strategy, business, policy, and personal survival, as in our Chicago Storytelling Network. This reporting, in other words, sometimes stops us in our tracks, but it also motivates us to look forward.
Here are our best stories of the year.
— Selin Thomas, digital editor
The Business of Guns
SIG Sauer’s P320 pistol has wounded more than 80 people who say they didn’t pull the trigger — and no U.S. agency has the power to intervene.
The Gun Machine: A Culture of Fear Sells Guns in the U.S. This Is How We Got Here.
In Episode Two of our new podcast, “The Gun Machine,” Alain Stephens explores the history of gun ownership in America — including the racist roots of the Second Amendment — and talks to Black gun owners about why they carry.
Weapons-maker Byrna is touting “less lethal” guns for self-defense. Can the company find a market in a country dominated by gun lovers and gun haters?
White men like Bob Owens are the firearms industry’s most essential customers. But they keep turning their weapons on themselves.
The Politics of Guns
After a sweeping electoral victory, state Democrats seized “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to reimagine gun violence prevention.
Illinois is the eighth state to pass a law requiring gun companies to impose “reasonable controls” on their marketing and distribution practices. All of them took inspiration from the same New York bill.
The group is slowly abandoning its original mission to teach Americans how to handle guns. Spending on these programs has dropped 77 percent in less than a decade.
The Toll on Our Communities
Critics say there isn’t enough traditional academic evidence to justify government investment in community violence interruption. But the programs are varied and neighborhoods aren’t laboratories, complicating ordinary evaluation.
A Stray Bullet Struck Her Sister. Now, Her Violence Prevention Work Includes the Man Who Fired the Gun.
The day Shneaqua Purvis lost her sister changed the direction of her life.
One year after a landmark study connecting drug abuse to gun violence, the city’s community activists say a fragmented response is trapping neighborhoods in a dangerous cycle.
Investigating America’s gun violence crisis
Reader donations help power our non-profit reporting.
Ask the Trace
We attempt to pin down a central — yet elusive — data point in the conversation around gun violence.
Offering cash for guns can be a quick way to get some firearms off the streets. Readers question whether the programs actually reduce violence.
Supporters of AR-15s, often used in mass shootings and racist attacks, say they’re important for self-defense. Our analysis of Gun Violence Archive data suggests otherwise.
N’Kosi Barber lost a friend in a shooting. Now, he’s helping Chicagoans who have endured similar losses move on through the craft of glassblowing.
Organizers ramp up youth programming in the summer when gun violence is at its peak. Participants are seeking long-term solutions.
We spent a year helping people who have experienced gun violence tell their stories. This collection is the result.
In neighborhoods that account for 43 percent of Philadelphia’s shootings, residents are wary, with some only leaving their homes for essentials.
A trauma surgeon’s study aims to convince more reporters to consider victims’ well-being when covering crime.
Philly’s strategy for solving violent crime relies on the public’s trust. The police killing of Eddie Irizarry, 27, threatens to strain that trust even more.
By the Numbers
As the United States faces a record number of mass shootings, data from the Gun Violence Archive suggests that multiple-casualty incidents are accelerating.
To mark the anniversary of the 1993 Brady Bill, The Trace charted the evolving landscape of gun purchasing and gun violence.
Most parents worry a shooting could happen at their children’s school. But a Trace analysis found that three times as many kids were shot in domestic violence incidents between 2018 and 2022.