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News and notes on guns in America

The Trace Receives a Pair of Awards for Investigative and Feature Reporting

The Trace has earned honors from two journalism organizations for our investigative reporting and feature writing.

On June 3, staff writer Mike Spies received the New York Press Club’s continuing coverage award for his exhaustive reporting on the National Rifle Association. The challenging stories he has tackled include an investigative profile of the NRA’s most feared lobbyist, Marion Hammer, who turned Florida into a laboratory for the nation’s most aggressive gun laws. Spies has also probed the group’s campaign finance practices, documenting how the NRA used an unknown consulting firm as a shell to illegally coordinate strategy with NRA-backed Republican candidates.

Following the thread, Spies later unearthed evidence that the NRA and the Trump campaign employed the same operation — at times, the exact same people — to craft and execute their advertising strategies for the 2016 election, another apparent violation of federal law. His reporting prompted the Campaign Legal Center, an election watchdog, to file five successive complaints against the NRA with the Federal Election Commission. This April, the CLC, along with the gun violence prevention group Giffords, filed a lawsuit against the FEC for dragging its feet on the complaints.

“It’s immensely gratifying to be recognized for going deep on a single subject,” Spies said. “Any organization that has so much power and influence requires a reporter’s sustained scrutiny.”

In May, contributor Casey Parks won the Deadline Club’s digital feature reporting award for her profile of a family torn apart by a shooting that may have been caused by a defective rifle. For “His Only Living Boy,” Parks spent months with the Stringers, a family for whom hunting and shooting were a way of life until tragedy struck. In 2011, Roger Stringer’s 15-year-old, Zac, was arrested for killing his 11-year-old brother with a Remington rifle. Zac swore he hadn’t even touched the trigger. Roger didn’t believe him, and helped the prosecution win a manslaughter conviction. Only years later did Roger learn about the well-documented problems with the triggers on Remington’s Model 700 series rifles, which can cause the guns to fire spontaneously.

Parks’s deeply reported profile brought readers along as Roger dedicated himself to clearing his surviving son’s record and holding Remington accountable.

“I feel so lucky to have gotten to write this story,” Parks said. “I learned a ton about guns and family, about what it means to love and believe in things.”

The awards come as The Trace continues to achieve impact through our reporting. Recent highlights include:

  • Mike Spies’s feature on the self-dealing and excessive perks enjoyed by NRA insiders, co-published with The New Yorker, prompted New York Attorney General Letitia James to open an investigation into the NRA’s tax-exempt status.
  • Brian Freskos’ reporting on major gaps in Illinois’ permit-to-purchase system spurred lawmakers to include a fingerprint requirement in a sweeping reform package unveiled after the Aurora factory shooting.
  • A New York State congressman proposed overhauling federal firearms laws to mandate security systems and more frequent inspections of gun stores after a separate Freskos’ investigation, also done in partnership with The New Yorker, found that thieves are stealing thousands of weapons that end up on the black market.
  • Daniel Nass and Sean Campbell’s reporting on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s inaccurate estimates of firearm injuries prompted 11 U.S. senators to send a letter to the head of the Department of Health and Human Services demanding that the agency explain its methods.

About the Trace

The Trace is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization, and the only media outlet dedicated to full-time and in-depth reporting on America’s gun violence crisis. Since our launch in June 2015, we have partnered with more than 100 national and local media organizations, including BuzzFeed, USA Today, McClatchy, The New Yorker, Politico Magazine, WNYC, Tampa Bay Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Slate, Chicago Sun-Times, Foreign Policy, and Teen Vogue. Our stories increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of the issue and spur action by policymakers, researchers, and law enforcement.

The Trace is always eager to hear from journalists interested in partnering with our nonprofit newsroom. Got an idea for a project? Please drop a note to Managing Editor Akoto Ofori-Atta at [email protected]