Guns & America

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.”

For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving constitutional gun rights.

While the ruling will directly affect only a small group of people ‒ New York City residents who are licensed to own a handgun and want to be able to take that gun outside city limits ‒ the court’s decision to accept the case could signal a new willingness to wade into questions surrounding the Second Amendment.

Judy Amabile has a crumpled sleeping bag laid out on the porch of her bright, beautiful home in downtown Boulder, Colorado.

“My son isn’t supposed to come in the house when he’s been drinking. That’s why we have this sleeping bag out here,” she explained. “Anybody else would look at that and think uh, what? But for us it’s like…That’s life.”

Life with Amabile’s son, 26, can be a struggle; the problem isn’t only alcohol abuse. He has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, she says, so many diagnoses that she just isn’t sure what’s wrong.

In his Portland, Oregon home, Austin Meyers stands in front of his gun safe and explains how he stores his ammo, his pistols and his rifle.

He puts a cable lock on his matte Glock handgun, about to demonstrate how fast he could unlock it and load a magazine if he had to in an emergency.

Rates of youth suicide are higher in states with high gun ownership, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers studied 10 years of teenage suicide rates and found that gun ownership “is a factor that really is highly predictive for what the youth suicide rate is going to be,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and one of the paper’s authors.

Stephanie Bond was married to her husband for almost 22 years before he called her into the master bedroom one afternoon in February 2010.

“He pulled out a .45-caliber gun and shot me three times in our walk-in closet with three of the four children at the home,” Bond said. “After he shot me, he put the gun in his mouth and killed himself — and died next to me.”

While working as an orthopedic surgeon in Hawaii, Dr. Diane Payne had treated one person with a gunshot wound in three years. But when she moved to Atlanta in 2013, Payne said it was like treating gunshot victims was suddenly all she was doing.

“I was shocked by the number of gun-related injuries that we’re seeing and taking care of here,” said Payne, who works at Atlanta’s busy downtown trauma center, Grady Memorial Hospital.

In 2013, Grady treated more than 600 gunshot victims.

Waiting on a federal firearms license to open your gun shop? Got an application pending to transfer a machine gun? You’re out of luck until the government shutdown ends, after which you’ll be at the mercy of a lengthy backlog.

Lawmakers this week are reintroducing federal legislation that would require background checks on nearly all gun purchases — what they call “universal background checks.” But what are universal background checks? Let’s take a look at what they would — and would not — entail.

What’s Required Now

Generally speaking, federally-licensed firearms dealers — like pawn shops, gun stores and retailers such as Walmart — are required by law to run a background check before selling a firearm.

Shooting your gun into the air on New Year’s Eve – or any celebratory gunfire, for that matter – can have deadly consequences. That might seem obvious, but along with party poppers, fireworks and champagne, it remains a staple at some celebrations.

Gun issues haven’t always been important to Dr. Erik Wallace.

As a young kid growing up in Northern California, Wallace discovered his dad’s handgun in a dresser drawer but was scared of what his dad would do if he touched it. He had a BB gun when he was young but preferred to play baseball, and has never been interested in hunting.

But his relationship with guns completely changed seven years ago when one of his patients threatened to kill him.

One day not long ago, James Banks, 18, was sitting in his house in the St. Clair–Superior neighborhood in Cleveland. He picked up a tape recorder and turned it on.

“If you can really listen out the window, to two streets down, it just sounded like a full-on war out there,” Banks said.

The sounds were coming from a shooting right around the corner at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday.

Scott and JJ Shepherd live in a white house at the end of a dirt road in Walden, Colorado, a small town near the Wyoming border.

The picture window above the sink in their kitchen frames a view: black cattle and a barn in the foreground, mountains in the distance, dark and dusted with snow.

Leigh Paterson, KUNC

Scott and JJ Shepherd’s herd in Walden, Colorado.

Leigh Paterson / KUNC

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

In most people's minds, machine guns are the province of wars and gangster movies. But for some hobbyists, they're coveted collectors' items – albeit heavily regulated, expensive and hard to come by.


Toy guns have been a popular item on Christmas gift wish lists for decades. Little Ralphie Parker from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story spends most of the movie wishing for a “Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle.”

Many toy guns look more real than toy, however, which has city officials, law enforcement and safety experts across the country urging parents to use extreme caution when purchasing them for children.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a new federal regulation that reclassifies bump stocks as machine guns, making bump stocks illegal in most cases under the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act.

On an unseasonably warm November day, hunter Cole Cushman loaded his pickup truck with camouflage gear, bright orange hats and a Browning 7 mm rifle for a hunt deep in the Virginia woods.

The autumn and winter months mark deer season for much of the United States, and for Cushman and other hunters across the country, a chance to feed their neighbors through various local hunger-relief programs.

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