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. To find out, we’re collecting relevant records from the nation’s 200 largest state and local law enforcement agencies. Data we’ve obtained has already informed a feature that compelled multiple police departments to issue public safety announcements about rising firearms thefts. In 2017, we’ll compile our research into a searchable tool made available to other reporters and readers.

  • 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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Our Partners

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 kind of public interest journalism that we produce 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.

Who We Are

  • James Burnett Editorial Director
  • Ben Hallman Deputy Editor PGP Public Key
  • Akoto Ofori-Atta Senior Engagement Editor
  • Miles Kohrman Senior Editor PGP Public Key
  • Sarah Ryley Staff Writer PGP Public Key
  • Mike Spies Staff Writer PGP Public Key
  • Ann Givens Staff Writer PGP Public Key
  • Nora Biette-Timmons Associate Editor PGP Public Key
  • Elizabeth Van Brocklin Reporter PGP Public Key
  • Alex Yablon Reporter PGP Public Key
  • Jennifer Mascia Engagement Writer
  • Nkenna Ibeakanma Growth Coordinator
  • Upstatement Design and Development
  • Brian Freskos, Francesca Mirabile, JoVona Taylor Editorial fellows, Winter 2017

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