Last year, our team of reporters at The Kansas City Star set out to find answers about Missouri’s gun violence problem.
Why does this state lead the nation in the rate at which Black people are killed in homicides? What are the causes of gun violence — and the solutions?
To understand these issues, we took our reporting on the road: from Kansas City to St. Louis, from Springfield to Sedalia, and places like Greenville, a community of 526 in the Bootheel region.
Along the way, we’ve told the stories of women who survived gun violence in their home, parents who lost a child to suicide, and many Missourians who have seen their neighborhoods devastated by near-constant shootings.
But we also met men and women working in their own communities to make a difference — by building houses for their neighbors, or farming, or making a better future for the kids in their town.
We didn’t know it, but even as we set about our work in 2020, Missouri experienced a record breaking year of gun violence — not only with homicides but in suicides and accidental shootings.
Now, our work has shown just how closely gun violence in Missouri is linked to disparities in public health factors such as housing, education and food security.
The Star, in partnership with Report for America and the Missouri Foundation of Health, launched the initiative in April 2020, hiring three reporters to exclusively cover gun violence in Missouri. The project’s announcement came about one month into the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the team includes me, Humera Lodhi and Kaitlin Washburn.
The past year and a half has undoubtedly been challenging, but The Star’s newsroom, like others across the country, adjusted to keep bringing vital information to the community. And as a unique team of three RFA reporters dedicated to covering the state’s gun violence, we threw ourselves into the work.
As we near the end of another year of the two-year project and begin fundraising to ensure that the project can continue, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on what the Missouri gun violence team has been able to accomplish so far with your help.
This project has been an ambitious state-wide investigative effort, and we partnered with news organizations across the state, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Springfield News-Leader and the Missouri Independent.
Over the past year, we’ve examined how distrust between Black Kansas Citians and police has driven gun violence in certain communities, how the accessibility of firearms in Missouri has led to high rates of firearm suicides, particularly in rural communities, and the impact state firearm laws have had on domestic violence.
We published a six-part series showing how social determinants of health — people’s surrounding environment and the resources available to them — can drive gun violence.
A live virtual panel with experts, advocates and Missourians with first-hand experience followed each of our stories. Hosted by American Public Square at Jewel, the panel discussions gave readers another way to engage with the stories, while also learning more about the ways in which gun violence can impact their communities.
In September, journalists Humera Lodhi, Kaitlin Washburn and Jelani Gibson, along with reporters from Post-Dispatch and News-Leader, were awarded first place for best news series by the Missouri Press Association.
In the coming months, our work will focus more on how changes in state firearm laws have contributed to gun violence here. And we’ll look more closely at solutions - either those being employed now or others that could be brought to Missouri.
Our team at The Star has been working hard to cover this important issue for the past year. But there is still a lot left for us to uncover. Help us continue our work with your support.
To mail a donation, please make checks payable to “Journalism Funding Partners” or “JFP.” The publication name — The Kansas City Star — must be included in the memo line, and include your email address so we can send you an acknowledgment email.
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