This week, The Trace received honors from two distinguished journalism organizations.
The Livingston Awards for Young Journalists named Brian Freskos a finalist in national reporting for his ongoing coverage of the public safety implications of America’s gun theft epidemic. In Missing Pieces, a yearlong data-driven investigation, Freskos exposed stolen firearms as an under-examined source of gun death and injury in America.
In partnership with more than a dozen NBC TV stations, Freskos collected 800,000 records from more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies in 36 states, and discovered a rise in gun theft across the country. His reporting also revealed how legal gun owners, by not securing their weapons safely, inadvertently fuel the criminal market for stolen firearms. The investigative package includes an expansive data hub that empowers other reporters to use the data for their own investigations.
Missing Pieces was published in November 2017. In the months since, local and national news organizations have continued to use our data to report on the issue. The editorial board for the Los Angeles Times called on Congress to rescind laws that prevent research into gun theft. Additionally, several police departments have issued warnings to residents about negligent gun storage. Just last week, a prominent researcher cited Missing Pieces in a scholarly paper urging his colleagues to direct their efforts to the issue.
“For a long time, no one really knew much about the connection between gun theft and violent crime, and how often stolen guns were getting into the hands of dangerous individuals,” Freskos said. “I’ve tried really hard to fill that gap. And though our reporting was some of the most extensive on this topic to date, I feel like we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.”
The winners will be announced on June 6.
As Ohio Republicans look to make their state the latest to pass protections for self-defense shootings, here's our story on the opponents for whom the issue hits close to home.
Also this week: the Institute for Nonprofit News awarded second place in its Impact Prizes for Nonprofit Photography to a photo commissioned by The Trace for staff writer Mike Spies’s article about the black lawmakers fighting a wave of “stand your ground” laws in state capitols across the country.
Kathryn Gamble’s diptych portrait of Iowa State Representative Ras Smith shows Smith in a suit, and contrasts it with a photo of him wearing a hoodie, the same one he wore on the House floor to protest a “stand your ground” law in Iowa. During his speech, Smith said: “The impact of this legislation on people who look like me, but may not dress like I do when I’m here Monday through Thursday, will be an increased risk of being killed.”
“When done well, photojournalism’s job is to bring issues to focus and to evoke, and this image does both beautifully,” said one of the judges.
The Institute for Nonprofit News promotes public-service and investigative journalism by promoting collaboration among nonprofit newsrooms.
About the Trace
The Trace is an independent, nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to shining a light on America’s gun violence crisis. Every year in America, a firearm is used in nearly 500,000 crimes, resulting in the deaths and injuries of more than 110,000 people. Meanwhile, the problem of gun violence has been compounded by another: the shortage of knowledge about the issue.
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. Since our launch in June 2015, we have partnered with 25 national and local media organizations, including The Atlantic, Slate, New York Daily News, Politico Magazine, Huffington Post, Tampa Bay Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Guardian U.S.