Guns & America

If in recent years it seems that school shootings are happening more frequently, occupying public discourse and media coverage, it’s because they are. Although school shootings are still very rare compared to daily gun violence, the data show they are happening more often.

Nearly 2 million records were added last year to the FBI database used to prevent criminals from buying a gun, according to a new FBI report on the operations of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

That’s an 11% increase over 2017.

The Masculine Ideal Is Killing American Men

May 14, 2019

Kneeling in a tree line on a foggy morning in Canby, Oregon, Alex Bates and Andrew Pollmann are scanning the woods for potential threats.

They’re decked out in tactical chest rigs to hold rifle magazines, Ops-Core helmets and Harris radios. This is the real gear soldiers use in combat, and they both look virtually indistinguishable from actual soldiers — except they’re maybe a little cleaner.

Bates throws a purple smoke grenade. Then he, Pollmann, and the rest of the Phantom Fury AirSoft team run into the woods, rifles at the ready.

In the wake of the shooting at the K-12 STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, parents all over the country are struggling with difficult conversations about safety at school. One student was killed and eight were injured. Hundreds more lived through the terrifying experience of a shooting at their school.

The reality is that school shootings are traumatic events. And they can have long-lasting consequences.

The Big Business Of School Security

May 7, 2019

As school security has become a top priority in communities across the country, security companies have found a thriving new market for their products. But in a sea of gadgets and technology, how do school districts effectively sift through and find the products that can truly help prevent a school shooting?

The ‘Big Aha Moment’

The Chatham County School District has about 8,700 students within its system and is situated in the center of northern North Carolina, a mix of rural and suburban communities.

A Florida teen arrived at Denver International Airport last week and then purchased a shotgun at a gun store in the suburb of Littleton. What followed was a massive, frantic manhunt and the closure of schools all over northern Colorado. Questions about the legality of that gun purchase persist.

After decades of decline, the rate of Americans killing their intimate partners has seen “a sharp increase” in recent years. Data shows that uptick is exclusively due to gun-related murders.

2:30 p.m. update: Gun store owner releases statement

The Littleton gun store that sold Pais a shotgun says they did so legally. The owner of Colorado Gun Broker posted on Facebook that Pais went through a full background check and was cleared by NICS and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

11:41 a.m. update: Sol Pais confirmed dead by FBI

A young Florida woman who traveled to Colorado and bought a shotgun for what authorities feared would be a Columbine-inspired attack just days ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered by the FBI with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

States across the country are passing gun control legislation in response to mass shootings, as groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America gain political clout. In deep red states, though, activists must both temper their expectations and reckon with residents and lawmakers often hostile to any limitations on their right to bear arms.

Public health researchers across the U.S. are eager to find possible solutions to gun violence. Gun ownership data helps researchers study how guns are used in various crimes and could reveal opportunities for preventing firearm-related deaths. But there is no federal registration requirement for guns. And without concrete numbers of gun ownership, how can researchers pin down the problem?

The answer: They use alternative measurements to get a handle on the data.

Several children at the Langston Lane Apartments in Southeast Washington, D.C., saw the body of 15-year-old Gerald Watson after he was chased down by two assailants, shot and killed in December.

The shooting happened just a short walk away from the TraRon Center after-school program, a community anti-gun violence resource and refuge to some two dozen children, which is housed in the same apartment complex where Watson lived and was killed.

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

The Guns & America series looks at the popularity of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The firearm's name and design are licensed to numerous manufacturers and can be customized with a plethora of attachments, making it one of the top-selling rifles in America. Heath Druzin, Boise State Public Radio's Guns & America reporter, joins Idaho Matters to parse out the popularity of this gun.

  • Concordia Law School receives full accreditation.
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  • 'Guns & America' looks at the popularity of the AR-15.
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As the pops of gunfire echo around him, Monte Petersen stoops to collect small brass casings that recently flew from his .45 pistol. The cartridges jingle like loose change as he picks them off the gun range floor and tosses them into a bucket.

Petersen is one of thousands, perhaps millions, of target shooters who take their shooting hobby further: Recycling their ammunition cartridges and assembling new cartridges by hand to shoot again.

Almost every morning in January and February, Patrick Parsons records a live Facebook video across the street from the Georgia capitol.

While it looks picturesque online, in person, it’s not the world’s most glamorous moment.

“I’ll probably go over there by the trash can, which is where I usually do it,” said Parsons, laughing. It’s easier to fit the gold dome of the capitol building into the frame from there.

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

Jim Corbet was a building contractor with way more free time than business in 2011, as the fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis took hold in his hometown of McCall, Idaho.

Corbet was also an amateur machinist and firearms enthusiast and he noticed fellow shooters gravitating toward one semi-automatic rifle in particular – the AR-15. So he set up shop in his garage and started tinkering with designs.

From Banned To Beloved: The Rise Of The AR-15

Feb 28, 2019

Jim Corbet was a building contractor with way more free time than business in 2011, as the fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis took hold in his hometown of McCall, Idaho.

Corbet was also an amateur machinist and firearms enthusiast and he noticed fellow shooters gravitating toward one semi-automatic rifle in particular – the AR-15. So he set up shop in his garage and started tinkering with designs.

The day in 2012 that a gunman killed 27 people and then himself in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, he didn’t just use a semi-automatic rifle. The shooter had an array of handguns, shotguns and rifles, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting shocked the nation, spurring new conversations about banning so-called assault weapons and magazines that could hold dozens of rounds.

Just because districts choose not to arm teachers with guns doesn’t mean they intend for them to simply hide if an active shooter enters a school. Some Maryland school districts are taking steps to train teachers to defend themselves in other ways.

Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) officials call their new strategy for responding to active shooter threats a “lockdown with options.” The school district near Washington, D.C., is training teachers to not only hide in a classroom when an assailant arrives, but to also flee or fight.

Sandy Hook. Parkland. Santa Fe.

If it seems like school shootings are becoming more common, there is some data to support that.

After the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, government investigators and contractors who process firearms dealer and special weapons licenses are staring at an application backlog that likely runs into the tens of thousands. As the possibility of another shutdown looms, so, too, does the the likelihood of that backlog increasing exponentially.

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

federal ban on bump stocks represents nearly unprecedented firearms regulation, the kind that concerns even some gun rights proponents who don’t like the devices.


Gun sales have been trending down since the 2016 presidential election when the sales hit a record high.

As Fred Nelson shuffled through a crowded convention center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a man tapped him on the shoulder to ask about a gun.

The man knew Nelson was selling thanks to the handwritten menu taped on Nelson’s backpack advertising more than a dozen handguns, rifles and shotguns.

He offered $300 for a Glock 19 pistol listed at $350.

“Meet me in the middle at $325,” Nelson responded. “It’s never been fired. You can look down the barrel.”

“I can do $300 cash, that’s all I can do,” the buyer responded, before pausing. “I haven’t even looked at it yet.”

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