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Suggestions for Covering July Fourth Weekend Gun Violence in Context

June 30, 2023

Lax gun laws contribute to gun violence, which remains at high level nationally. Going into the long July 4 weekend, many cities are bracing themselves for a potentially violent weekend. 

As your newsroom prepares for weekend coverage, below are a few suggestions:

1) Seek out the perspective of gun violence survivors — and use a trauma-informed approach to interviews.

A report released by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and the Black Mental Health Alliance detailed community trauma in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by gun violence and laid out recommendations for addressing it. In light of the kind of individual, family and community-level trauma discussed in the report, it is important to take a trauma-informed approach to conversations with survivors of gun violence. 

When seeking out the perspectives of gun violence survivors, keep in mind that survivors have experienced traumatic events and recounting those events can be challenging. Read more from Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma on ways to sensitively interview victims of tragedies here and here.

You can also share resources for gun violence survivors so survivors know where to go to get help.

2) Include ATF data on the sources of crime guns recovered in your state.

As cities in states with good gun laws grapple with increasing gun violence, be sure to note the influx of firearms from states with lax laws as a key driver. Use The Crime Gun Dashboard, released in May, to easily explore data on crime guns flowing into and out of every state collected by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The data makes clear gun traffickers seek out states without background check laws as sources of firearms, underscoring the need for the Senate to pass background check legislation. Also, consider asking local police departments for information on crime guns and to #namethegun in your coverage.

3) Center the work of community-led gun violence intervention programs, which have successfully reduced violence by implementing data-informed, locally led strategies.

Community-based violence intervention programs work with individuals at the highest risk of shooting or being shot and help reduce violence through targeted interventions — including job readiness and workforce development programming — in their communities and in hospitals. These programs are on the frontlines in the cities with the highest gun violence and communities experiencing disproportionate impact. Be sure to note their current efforts and engage them for insight. Please feel free to reach out for suggestions of local violence intervention programs.

Everytown Community Safety Fund invests millions in community-based violence intervention organizations working in cities across the country. The Everytown Community Safety Fund, a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (“Everytown”), is the largest national initiative solely dedicated to fueling the life-saving work of community-based violence intervention organizations in cities nationwide. At the end of the summer they will announce their annual investment in 15 organizations, with an addition of Sustainer Grants to existing grantees, nationwide, with an expansion to 7 new cities.

Since 2019, the Everytown Community Safety Fund (The Fund) has granted $8 million in support of 72 community-based violence intervention organizations implementing promising strategies, like street outreach, hospital-based violence interventions and youth development and counseling, in more than 57 American cities. 

4) Cover the options cities have for fighting gun violence – including spending federal funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to fund evidence-informed community violence intervention programs.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a historic, bipartisan gun safety safety bill signed into law by President Joe Biden last June, includes $250 million in dedicated funding for evidence-informed, community-based violence intervention programs that reduce gun violence in the most affected communities using a public health approach.

There are a number of tools cities have for addressing gun violence. Many others are described in CityGRIP, an interactive online platform that draws on years of interviews with city officials about their uses of data in local public safety efforts, as well as extensive research on the effectiveness of a wide range of community-based gun violence prevention strategies.

5) Include context about the policies state lawmakers are considering or passed during the 2023 legislative session that may impact gun violence. 

While many state legislatures heeded the call for action to prevent gun violence and passed common-sense gun safety measures, others doubled down on the gun lobby’s “guns-everywhere” agenda and weakened public safety laws, passing dangerous gun bills that have been shown to lead to more gun deaths. More information available here.

6) Report on the ways the gun lobby and its allies in Congress and statehouses have undermined law enforcement efforts to combat gun violence.

Gun lobby allies on the state and federal level have worked for years to undermine the law enforcement responsible for enforcing our gun laws, block legislation that would provide them with the tools they need, and pass unpopular policies that make our communities less safe. This year, two states passed permitless carry bills despite opposition from law enforcement and laws explicitly prohibiting and punishing law enforcement for helping to enforce federal gun laws. Gun lobby allies in Congress have continued to propose eliminating the federal law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing our gun laws and completely dismantling our federal background check system.

7) Fact-check efforts to blame increases in gun violence on protests or criminal justice reform.

Attempts to shift blame for increasing gun violence to social justice reform measures and “progressive political platforms” are based in politics, not facts. Many cities that have not implemented recent criminal justice reforms also experienced increased rates of violence over the past year. 

8) Provide demographic gun violence data in your reporting. 

Summertime can be a particularly dangerous time for communities as gun violence often spikes in the warm months. A new report, “The Changing Demographics of Gun Homicide Victims and How Community Violence Intervention Programs Can Help,” details the role of community violence intervention programs (CVI) in reducing gun violence, and providing recommendations to ensure that these programs are accessible and tailored to the groups most affected. 

Research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund has found that in the years since COVID-19’s onset, Black men continue to experience alarmingly high rates of gun homicides due to generations of disinvestment, but rates are also rising among new groups, including Black women, Latinx, and transgender people. 

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