Surviving a bullet wound, or losing a loved one to a shooting, sends people’s lives in a direction they never could have imagined, and never would have chosen. Survivors are often forced to grapple with circumstances they did not choose — and in many cases, The Trace’s Chicago engagement reporter Justin Agrelo wrote last year, journalists play a role in that loss of choice. In their attempt to cover nearly every homicide, reporters often boil people’s lives down to just a few details, often defining them by their deaths, and give communities little choice in deciding what their loved ones’ public narrative will be after they’re gone.

What would the story of gun violence be if we allowed survivors to lead the way? To answer, Agrelo spearheaded the creation of the Survivor Storytelling Network, a program that recruited, paid, and trained Chicago survivors of gun violence to tell their own stories. The work of the first cohort — a collection of personal essays by survivors Jaree Noel, Marlon English, Eroica Del Real, Aja Johnson, and Carla Johnson — was published in December in collaboration with several newsrooms across the city. 

Now, Agrelo is bringing together a new cohort of Chicagoans. If you’ve been affected by Chicago’s gun violence crisis and feel ready to tell your story, we hope you’ll consider applying for this paid opportunity — or, if you know someone who might be a fit, we hope you’ll share the application. In the meantime, you can read the first Survivor Storytelling Network collection. Each essay offers a peek into the different ways gun violence contours and rearranges a life: stories of loss and grief, but also of redemption, love, regret, and our fluctuating ideas of justice.

Learn more about the 2024 Survivor Storytelling Network →

What to Know Today

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has agreed to liquidate his assets to begin paying nearly $1.5 billion in damages to relatives of victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Jones, who spread lies about the 2012 massacre on his show Infowars, was ordered to pay restitution in 2022, after the families won defamation lawsuits against him; they have yet to see a penny, however, since Jones and his media company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy shortly after. While the liquidation won’t be enough to cover the amount Jones owes the Sandy Hook families, it could mean he loses his ownership of Infowars and Free Speech Systems. [NPR/NBC]   

Police in Burlington, Vermont, issued a public apology after local detectives surprised a group of high school students with a “mock shooting” that included fake firearms, simulated gunshots, and screaming. About 20 students in a forensics program were visiting police headquarters as part of a year-end field trip; in a statement, a spokesperson for the school district said officials were aware that there would be a reenactment of a gun-related crime, but not that it would happen without warning. [VTDigger/NBC

It’s been a year since California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a 28th constitutional amendment to enshrine several popular gun safety measures, but the idea has gained little-to-no traction outside his state. Is Newsom seriously pursuing an amendment, or was his proposal just savvy political messaging? [CalMatters

Manhattan Judge Joel M. Cohen has denied a request by the National Rifle Association and its former executives to set aside a verdict in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s civil corruption case against the gun group. In February, a jury found the NRA liable and ordered ex-CEO Wayne LaPierre to repay the group over $4.3 million. A former CFO was ordered to repay $2 million. In a June 6 bench ruling, Cohen said the defendants had not shown that James had failed to provide jurors with enough evidence to support their verdict. “And I cannot conclude in any of these motions that the jury verdict was irrational or against the weight of the evidence,” Cohen said, according to a report by Law360, a legal news outlet. Cohen will oversee a second phase of the trial in July, when he’s expected to decide if increased oversight of the NRA is warranted and how such monitoring would occur. —Will Van Sant 

Just months ago, police in Anchorage, Alaska, began wearing body cameras. Since then, officers have shot three people, killing two of them, in the span of less than a month. The department head has signaled that footage of the shootings may not be released — even as security camera footage of one of the shootings contradicts the police narrative. It’s spurring a public fight for greater transparency from the department. [Associated Press]

Data Point

$165 million — the amount of money Infowars’ store made in sales from September 2015 to the end of 2018; some of the most profitable days were ones when host Alex Jones pushed conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. On a single day in 2017 when Jones spread lies about the shooting, the store sold more than 4,600 products that day, earning more than $180,000. [HuffPost]