A couple of weeks ago, The New Yorker’s Kyle Chayka penned an essay about the search to name our contemporary era. Among the ideas he found: the Terrible Twenties, the Age of Emergency, and the Long 2016. While these labels are usually given in retrospect, Chayka noted, the “urge to name reflects the urge to understand” a period of extreme uncertainty — so why not start now?

In the gun violence space, the notion that we’re living through an era of uncertainty was affirmed in 2023. Fallout from the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling continued to create chaos throughout the justice system; the high court’s decision to take on U.S. v. Rahimi, a case that could clarify the new framework for deciding Second Amendment cases, won’t yield results until next summer. The year began with a deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, and had set the record for the most such events — by more than one measure — by early December. Experts began to identify a new kind of violent extremist, including mass killers, whose “grab-bag” ideology does not adhere to any firm creed.

There was movement on firearm safety: President Joe Biden created a White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, fulfilling a long-standing demand from gun reform advocates. As The Trace’s Chip Brownlee documented, states across the country passed laws making it easier to disarm people deemed a danger, expanding or strengthening existing background checks, extending waiting periods, and restricting access to assault weapons, among other measures. Whether some of these regulations survive legal challenges, however, remains to be seen.

The end of the year can be especially grim on the gun violence beat, wrote The Trace’s Selin Thomas, as the hard numbers of national death tolls and mass shooting counts are finalized. Throughout 2023, our team — and many of our peers across the media landscape — repeatedly confronted that darkness, covering all angles of this crisis. It’s easy to forget what happened over the course of a year, particularly at its close; events that eventually shape how we remember an era can slip into the ether of the end-of-year crunch. To counter that, we’ve created a historical record of sorts, a review of the shifts that contoured 2023 and the journalism that documented them. Three of the pieces are out now; the final, on the gun violence statistics of the past year, will be released on December 31. You can find the available stories below.

2023 in Review:

More from The Trace

The must-reads from this week.

Chicago Shooting Survivors, In Their Own Words

We spent a year helping people who have experienced gun violence tell their stories. This collection is the result.
Read the collection → 

After Federal Court Decision, New York’s Religious Leaders Face a Thorny Gun Problem

Places of worship must now choose whether to let congregants carry firearms while attending services.

Reflecting on a Season of Growth in Philly

Reporter Afea Tucker discusses a year of local community engagement, culminating in an anti-violence event focused on music.
Read more →

What to Know This Week

More than 2,000 children in Cranston, Rhode Island, attend school within 500 yards of a police shooting range. With gunfire echoing through campuses on the daily, many children have become desensitized to the sound, inured to the threat of violence. [The New York Times

A body of scholarship indicates that Americans tend to become more supportive of gun regulation in the wake of a school or mass shooting. But a new study found evidence of a divergence: In counties that experience a school shooting, donations to the National Rifle Association surge. [Science Advances

A sprawling network of influencers have built large audiences specifically interested in guns and gun culture. Some of these niche marketers aren’t teenagers yet. [USA TODAY

At least 15 people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a shooting at a university in Prague, Czech Republic — the country’s deadliest-ever mass shooting. [Reuters

The Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge to Illinois’ ban on AR-style rifles, leaving the state’s ban in place. [WTTW]

Ken Wallentine is one of Utah policing’s most high-profile figures. For decades, he’s also had a well-paid side gig defending police misconduct. [Utah Investigative Journalism Project, Invisible Institute, and Salt Lake City Weekly]

Texas Governor Greg Abbott promised to pardon the man convicted of killing Garrett Foster, who was shot during a 2020 Black Lives Matter rally in Austin. Foster’s mother, Sheila — a self-described lifelong Republican voter — is on a quest for closure, and criticizes Abbott’s move as a ploy for political points. [Texas Monthly

Baltimore is suing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for what the city alleges is an improper refusal to release gun crime data. If fulfilled, the city’s Freedom of Information Act request will reveal the top 10 sources of crime guns in Baltimore between 2018 and 2022. [CBS]

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, a President George W. Bush appointee, temporarily blocked a California law banning guns in 26 categories of “sensitive places” like playgrounds, hospitals, stadiums, and zoos. [Reuters

Federal prosecutors plan to retry the Louisville, Kentucky, officer accused of violating Breonna Taylor’s civil rights the night police shot and killed her in 2020. The decision came a month after a judge declared the earlier case a mistrial. [NBC

After far-right commentator Tucker Carlson spotlighted Rainbow Reload in a Fox News segment, members of the LGBTQ+ gun group received death threats. But the attention also prompted more supporters to join, and new chapters sprouted in Tennessee and Vermont. [The Washington Post

The Biden administration is withholding a shipment of more than 27,000 U.S.-made rifles to Israel’s national police over fears that they might be distributed to extremist settlers in the West Bank. [The Wall Street Journal]

The Florida Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to the constitutionality of the state’s barring of felons from possessing firearms. The appeal centered on the argument that the Bruen decision ought not apply only to law-abiding citizens. [CBS Miami]

Agya K. Aning and Jennifer Mascia contributed to this section.

In Memoriam

Jakari Edwards, 20, was excited for Christmas — it was the first he’d share with his 4-month-old son. He’d helped prepare his family’s suburban New Orleans house for the festivities just after Thanksgiving, NOLA.com reported, trimming their tree and putting up lights. But on December 2, Edwards was shot and killed in Marrero, Louisiana. Until his own child came along, Edwards was the baby of his close-knit family — the youngest of four siblings, and the only son — and he had the antics to match. His sisters recalled him commandeering their mom’s motor chair to take their kids for a ride, or taking over their bedrooms with a loud video game setup. But they said he had a serious side, too: Edwards took care of their mother when she fell ill, and prioritized being an excellent father and someone his sisters could lean on. He’d come over “just to put clothes in the dryer,” one sister said. “He was a great kid,” said another. “He had a future ahead of him.”

We Recommend

An Unpermitted Shooting Range Upends Life in a Quiet Town: “Residents of Pawlet, Vermont, were accustomed to calm and neighborly interactions. Then a new resident moved in.” [The New Yorker]

Pull Quote

 “I know we can’t save them all. Grabbing up the few we can and keeping them on the right path is really what I strive to do.”

— Ebony McClenny, whose son Dakarai Baldwin was shot and killed in 2022, on starting a nonprofit to teach young people who live in stressful environments about mental health and coping strategies, to The Baltimore Sun