Why We Started This Site

Every year in our country, a firearm is used in nearly 500,000 crimes, resulting in the deaths and injuries of more than 110,000 people. Shootings devastate families and communities and drain billions of dollars from local, state, and federal governments. Meanwhile, the problem of gun violence has been compounded by another: the shortage of knowledge about the issue.

  • Most Americans simply are not aware of how many lives firearms claim, nor understand the factors that contribute to that total. In one poll, the median estimate given for annual gun-related fatalities was 5,000 deaths—less than one sixth of the actual number.
  • The national conversation on gun violence mostly misses the big picture. Mass shootings drive headlines and political responses, but they comprise only 2 percent of gun deaths. Far more people are killed with handguns than assault-style rifles, while everyday gun violence hits marginalized populations the hardest. Nearly half of gun homicide victims are young black men. American women make up nearly 90 percent of the female gun violence victims recorded by all wealthy nations.
  • Data and records are shielded from public view—or don’t exist. Gun-lobby backed restrictions on federal gun violence research deprive policymakers and public health experts of potentially life-saving facts. Other laws limit the information that law enforcement agencies can share on illegal guns and curb litigation that could allow scrutiny of industry practices.
  • An emboldened NRA has operated largely in secrecy, while actively promoting misinformation. With for-profit newsrooms stretched thin, the group has aggressively expanded the presence of firearms in public spaces and institutions and used conspiracy theories about gun confiscation to oppose tighter restrictions. The arrival of an unprecedentedly friendly White House administration has increased the NRA’s policy influence, and intensified its attacks on the press.

We believe that when an issue is shrouded by a knowledge gap, journalism can be a big part of the solution. As a nonprofit newsroom, The Trace is able to dedicate itself to in-depth reporting that doesn’t let up after the latest high-profile shooting leaves the front pages.

How We Make a Difference

  • We make the problem clear. In partnership with Slate, we built an eye-opening, interactive map plotting the locations of nearly 40,000 incidents of gun violence nationwide. The feature received millions of pageviews and generated extensive local coverage and social media conversation. “So many shootings and deaths, so close to my home,” wrote one reader. “And I hadn’t even heard about most of them.”

  • We direct attention to the communities most affected. Our coverage has called attention to the ways that debates over crime rates can obscure the urgent public safety needs of police districts traumatized by near-constant gunfire. In 2016, our team has reported from neighborhoods in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Chicago, Louisville, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Atlanta to tell the stories of the direct and indirect victims of “murder inequality” and the hidden tolls it takes on the communities left suffering its burdens.

  • We fill the gaps. While collaborating with the Guardian on an widely cited series documenting the rise of fear-based gun ownership, we began to explore whether the increased carry of guns might be leading to more gun theft, and more weapons entering the criminal market. Over the period of a year, we obtained records of stolen and recovered weapons from more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies. The data laid the foundation for our "Missing Pieces" investigation, which linked tens of thousands of stolen weapons to crimes. 

  • We report on possible fixes, and the forces that oppose them. As part of a series on the NRA’s state tactics, our investigative team dug into how the gun group squashed a bill that would have created standards for firearms storage in Tennessee, where an 8-year-old girl had been killed by an 11-year-old neighbor wielding his parent’s unsecured shotgun. The story was paired with an interactive enabling users to sift for patterns in nearly 300 cases — a total higher than government statistics for the same period — in which a child under 13 obtained a gun and shot someone.

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We’re grateful to the journalists whose work has informed and inspired ours, and eager to be an ally to other newsrooms whose stories touch our beat. We have partnered with a growing roster of national and local media organizations, including:

We’re always looking to start new partnerships. Please get in touch to discuss a possible collaboration or inquire about republishing Trace articles.

Our Supporters

The public interest journalism that our nonprofit newsroom produces is time- and cost-intensive. We rely on generous readers to ensure we have the resources required to fulfill our mission. To help us ensure that Americans have the facts on gun violence, please consider making a donation using the button below.

Editorial Independence

The Trace maintains a firewall between our news coverage decisions and all sources of revenue. This separation ensures that financial support does not present a conflict of interest for our journalism or compromise our editorial independence.

Gifts, grants, and sponsorships from individuals and organizations help to fund our nonprofit journalism, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their positions.

Click here to read more about our policy on editorial independence.

Who We Are

  • James Burnett Editorial Director
  • Tali Woodward Deputy Editor
  • Akoto Ofori-Atta Senior Editor
  • Miles Kohrman Senior Editor PGP Public Key
  • John Cook Special Correspondent
  • David Geary Copy Editor
  • Sarah Ryley Staff Writer PGP Public Key
  • Mike Spies Staff Writer PGP Public Key
  • Ann Givens Staff Writer PGP Public Key
  • Daniel Nass Visual Journalist
  • Elizabeth Van Brocklin Reporter PGP Public Key
  • Brian Freskos Reporter PGP Public Key
  • Alex Yablon Reporter PGP Public Key
  • Jennifer Mascia Engagement Writer
  • Mayra Ortiz-Paige Newsroom Operations Coordinator
  • Upstatement Design and Development
  • Sean Campbell and Marsha McLeod Editorial fellows, Summer 2018

Get In Touch

  • Readers: We welcome your feedback. Please send suggestions, questions, and constructive criticism to [email protected].
  • Partners: We love working with other news organizations. If you’re a journalist with an idea for a project or an editor hoping to reuse our articles, please contact Senior Editor Akoto Ofori-Atta at [email protected]
  • Contributors: We’re interested in hearing from experienced investigative journalists, photographers, videographers, and data jockeys who know things we don’t and are based in places we aren’t. Resumes, portfolios, and story ideas can be submitted to [email protected].