On April 20, 1999, America entered a new era. It was the day Columbine — a name taken from a beautiful wildflower — became synonymous with tragedy, when two students opened fire at their Colorado high school, killing 12 of their classmates and one teacher and injuring two dozen other people. In the 25 years since the massacre, public life in America has dramatically transformed: Lived and feared mass attacks, along with everyday gun violence, have morphed how we navigate our lives. At the same time, guns have grown ubiquitous.

The scenarios might be familiar. You drop your kid off at kindergarten, where they learn how to react to a school shooting in the same classroom that they sing the ABCs. At the grocery store, you spot a rifle-strapped shopper in the cereal aisle, pondering whether to add Honey Nut Cheerios or Cinnamon Toast Crunch to their cart. You’re late to the concert you paid $70 for, not because you didn’t arrive on time but because you brought your backpack, and you had to pay the venue $20 for a clear bag, then drop your backpack off at the car, and then get back in a line moving painstakingly slow as security scans every attendee for weapons. 

This is America, write The Trace’s Jennifer Mascia and Chip Brownlee, two-and-a-half decades after Columbine. In their piece “The Armed Era,” Mascia and Brownlee break down the data showing how the country has changed.

From Our Team

New from The Trace.

The Armed Era

Since Columbine, guns have grown ubiquitous, showing up in grocery stores, airports and political protests, and encroaching on our lives in new and unprecedented ways.

Columbine Shaped a New Era in America’s Gun Debate

The first episode of “Long Shadow: In Guns We Trust” explores the legacy of the infamous mass shooting in Littleton, Colorado.

The Biden Administration Is Trying to Expand Background Checks for Gun Sales

A new rule is designed to end years of ambiguity and allow law enforcement to crack down on unlicensed gun dealers. 

Philadelphia’s New Public Safety Plan Calls for More Data, Boots on the Ground

Cherelle Parker’s 100-day plan was released one day after a shooting in the city’s Muslim community.

Teachers Say They’re Struggling With the Reality of Guns In Schools

In a nationwide survey, about one-third of public high school teachers reported experiencing a gun-related lockdown during the previous school year.

Lost and Stolen Guns Are More Likely to Be Used in Crimes, Study Finds

Researchers analyzed millions of gun sales records to show how legally acquired guns make their way onto the black market.

What to Know This Week

The mass shooting at a church school in Nashville last year sparked a protest movement for gun reform in Tennessee — a movement the GOP-dominated Legislature answered by, among other measures, expanding gunmakers’ liability protections and, amid fervent protest, advancing legislation to allow some teachers to carry guns in schools. Why hasn’t the reform movement seen more success in Tennessee? [The Tennessean/The Guardian/Chalkbeat Tennessee

For years, New York City has relied on both policing and nontraditional alternatives to curb gun violence. But two recent events expose a growing rift that threatens to derail the city’s strategy: In February, a swarm of officers violently arrested two outreach workers, hospitalizing one, in an apparent culmination of a year of police harassing members of the city’s violence interrupter system. And a prominent advocate for community-based policing filed a lawsuit alleging that department officials orchestrated a smear campaign against her using confidential details of a sexual assault she endured in 2017. [The New York Times/THE CITY

The head of Chicago’s police watchdog group sent a letter to the city’s top cop questioning whether a group of officers lied about their reason for conducting a traffic stop that ended in the death of the driver last month. Per the oversight agency, after five tactical officers pulled over driver Dexter Reed in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, Reed shot one of them in the forearm; the officers then fired 96 rounds at Reed in 41 seconds. Humboldt Park residents said their neighborhood has long been subject to over-policing. [Chicago Sun-Times/Block Club Chicago]

It’s been a year since Missouri teen Ralph Yarl survived being shot in the head after ringing the wrong doorbell. He’s just now coming to terms with how the shooting changed his life, still fighting to recover physically and emotionally while charting a path forward. [NBC

James and Jennifer Crumbley, the first parents to be held criminally responsible for a mass school shooting committed by their child, were each sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison for their roles in the 2021 mass shooting at Michigan’s Oxford High School that was carried out by their then-teenage son. [Detroit Free Press/CNN]

In Memoriam

Jaylin Jenkins, 16, was a good older brother — the oldest of four, he doted on his siblings, his mom, Amanda, told AL.com, and spent most of his time hanging out at home with his family. Jaylin was shot and killed in Birmingham, Alabama, this week, on his way home from the neighborhood convenience store. He’d been picking up a Coke to have with his dinner. Jaylin was sharp: He excelled at school, loved breaking down and rebuilding machinery, and had such a knack for computers that Amanda pictured him one day working in IT. He liked going to the skating rink with his best friend, but otherwise, he was a homebody. Friends and family described him as quiet and caring. “He was so smart,” Amanda said. “He was just too good for this earth.”

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Right-Wing Media and the Death of an Alabama Pastor: An American Tragedy

“Bubba Copeland was the heart and soul of his community — mayor, businessman. When a website exposed his deepest secrets, his life wasn’t the only thing that was destroyed.” [Esquire]

Pull Quote

“It’s definitely a bumpy journey. Whenever there’s something that goes on that reminds me of what happened … I just have, like, such a negative wave of emotions, like anger, like disgust. It’s always a mix of good and bad days.”

— Ralph Yarl, the Missouri teenager who survived being shot in the head after ringing the wrong doorbell last year, on his recovery, to NBC