With children going back to school and a holiday long weekend approaching, gun violence rates are rising nationally. Combined with lingering consequences of the pandemic, increased gun sales, and lax gun laws, many cities are bracing themselves for a potentially violent Labor Day weekend.
As your newsroom prepares for weekend coverage, below are a few suggestions:
1) Cover the options cities have for fighting gun violence, including spending federal COVID relief to fund evidence-informed community violence intervention programs, which have successfully reduced violence by implementing data-informed, locally led strategies.
The White House has specifically identified community violence intervention as an eligible use of the $350 billion of state and local aid being made available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and already, cities are taking action. Devoting ARP funds to intervention efforts is just one of 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.
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.
2) Include context on the comprehensive strategy announced by the Biden-Harris Administration to combat gun violence.
The Biden-Harris Administration outlined a new five-part strategy to reduce gun violence that includes the creation of new strike forces to take on gun trafficking, new efforts to hold rogue gun dealers accountable for violating federal laws, investments in community violence intervention programs, and more. The strategy convenes a new Community Violence Intervention Collaborative of 15 jurisdictions that are committing to use a portion of their American Rescue Plan funding (or other funding) to increase investment in community violence intervention infrastructure, helping prepare cities for potential rises in violence over the summer.
3) Report on the ways the gun lobby and its allies in Congress and statehouses have undermined legislative and 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, while many state legislatures heeded the call for action to prevent gun violence and passed common-sense gun safety measures, several states passed harmful bills, including bills to hinder law enforcement efforts to curb gun violence such as permitless carry and nullification bills.
4) 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 of 2021, 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.
5) Report on the ways the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate key drivers of gun violence, and the ways that the increase in gun sales over the past year has strained the background check system.
Lack of access to income, suitable housing, and other critical life needs are key drivers of gun violence, and the pandemic has caused widespread economic upheaval while disrupting the delivery of social services. States and cities are just now getting many of these critical supports back on line. These are among the compounding factors that may explain the upward trend.
In addition, while the background check system worked as intended and denied a record number of prohibited purchasers during the pandemic, the loopholes in the law have been exacerbated and accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic due to an unprecedented surge in people seeking firearms, whether from a gun dealer, a stranger online, or companies selling unregulated, do-it-yourself firearm kits.
6) 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, consider taking 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.