“Covering the End of the World”: A Reporter on Gun Violence

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Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Hey, y’all, it’s Brittany. If you’re an older millennial like me, I’m not going to use that awful term geriatric millennial. You remember fire drills? Midwesterners like me know the tornado drills and the West Coasters know the earthquake ones. But there was one thing that was just not a part of our curriculum. Active shooter drills. It wasn’t as if we didn’t know violence was a possibility, but it wasn’t a present constant threat in the same space where we were supposed to be learning. I worried about my crushes and whether or not my handwriting was as neat as my friend Cara’s. About parties and prom and puberty, the things kids are supposed to be left to worry about. 

And then I read that in Highland Park, Illinois, where a 25-year-old shooter opened fire at a 4th of July parade, the kids had to teach their parents how to survive an active shooter situation. And not all of them were able to do it. Yeah, that detail has haunted me. Mass shootings are only a small portion of the constant gun violence that threatens our communities and our kids every day. Death by suicide, homicide, domestic and intimate partner violence. Community violence and police violence and mass shootings. All of it creates terror across our country. 

But guns make people electable. So we remain this perverse place where we know an average 316 people are injured or killed by guns every single day. And we do nothing. Strike that, we actually make it worse. America’s obsession with her guns is every bit as deep as our commitment to the white supremacist hetero patriarchy that created her, which enforces its will by any means necessary. 

And if that’s too many woke words for some people, think of it this way. Across the world, America leads the pack in the most terrible ways. In gun ownership, in gun deaths, in mass shootings. We’ve gotten used to this. But we don’t have to. This is not the way things have to be. We can do something about this. I don’t want this to be the way that America is exceptional. We are UNDISTRACTED. 

On the show today. I’ll be talking to reporter Jennifer Mascia about what the government can and can’t do to prevent gun violence and why America is so obsessed with guns to begin with. 

Jennifer Mascia: Guns have been since the founding of our country, they are in our DNA, a tool for white people to subjugate indigenous populations and people of color. 

Brittany: That’s coming up. But first, it’s the news. 

On Saturday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made her first stop on what she’s calling a road to healing. She’s meeting with survivors of former federally run boarding schools for Native Americans. Up until the 1970s, the federal government used them as a way to separate children from their Indigenous cultures. Students were taken from their families, punished for speaking their language, and denied access to knowledge about their heritage. So it was said, Kill the Indian, Save the Man. 

Brought Plenty: They stripped me down. They cut my hair off and they poured liquid in my hair and put, gave me some liquid stuff in my hand and told me to go to the showers. 

The tour is a part of the Interior Department’s investigation into boarding schools, which Secretary Haaland announced in May. Secretary Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and the first indigenous cabinet secretary in American history. Let that sit for a second. The first since George Washington organized his cabinet in 1791. In the land that she is indigenous to. I find it especially critical that the secretary is also collecting an oral history of what happened there. 

It’s truth and reconciliation. Folks always wanna jump to the reconciliation and skip the truth. The survivor testimonies and the testimonies of their families are a reminder that these wounds are far from healed. It’s about time we make space to listen to and this country make amends for the stories that have been buried for decades. 

You have got to read Rhode Island State Senator Tiara Mack’s piece in Newsweek On the 4th of July, Senator Mack posted a Tik Tok twerking upside down with the caption “A promised senator thirst trap at Block Island.” She signs off with Vote for Senator Mack. Now it’s cheeky, literally. See what I did there? And it’s fun as hell. But of course, online conservatives and other respectable folks went bonkers because a young Black woman was being herself in public. I want to read a little of Senator Mac’s response, because she nailed it. She said, As a queer Black woman, I am used to this treatment. It doesn’t make it okay, but I realize there are separate rules in society for me. I choose not to follow them, and for many that is liberating. For others, it rubs in the wrong way. I lead with empathy, love, compassion, and joy in all that I do. 

Now my take is Amen to all of that. We need more legislators who look like us, who live like us, and who unapologetically do not follow these unwritten rules of society that seek to limit us. And by the way, Senator Mack has a hell of a record. During her time in the state senate, she has introduced legislation to prevent discrimination based on hairstyle and texture, to require federal immigration authorities to get a warrant before entering schools and churches, to stop employers from stealing employee tips, to allow taxpayers to deduct their student loan interest, to make it easier to get birth control by allowing pharmacists to prescribe it, and more. And she’s only been in office for two years. She’s up for reelection this fall. So long may you serve, Senator Mack and I keep doing you. 

Coming up, my conversation with gun violence reporter Jennifer Mascia, one of the founding writers at The Trace, right after this short break. 

And we are back. My guest today has been covering America’s obsession with guns for a decade. Jennifer Mascia is a writer at The Trace, which is the only newsroom exclusively dedicated to reporting on gun violence in America. Before she was at The Trace, she wrote The Gun Report for The New York Times. I wanted to talk to her about the recently enacted Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and what it does and doesn’t do to address gun violence in America. But our conversation turned to the connection between gun ownership on the right, white supremacy, and what Jennifer worries could be the future of America if we don’t act now. 

Jennifer, thank you so much for talking to us. I’m sure you’re very, very busy right now, considering what you do. So you are one of the foremost journalists in the country covering guns, gun control, gun violence. A lot has happened on that front over the last few years. Even just over the last month, we’ve had mass shootings that have been terribly tragic and unfortunate. We’ve also seen President Biden recently sign gun control legislation. How do you characterize the moment that we’re in overall? 

Jennifer: The moment is promising, but limited. I’ve been covering this since just after Sandy Hook. So it’s been almost a decade now and people thought if federal gun reform couldn’t pass then, then it was never going to pass. Well, now we have the bookend of ten years since that was Uvalde. More and more children being killed by these guns. And it did prompt some legislation, but it was limited and it was a rare bipartisan moment. I feel like the Republicans may have heard from their constituents in a way that they haven’t before on guns. 

Brittany: I’d love for you to unpack some of this specific happenings for our listeners. When you talk about this moment being promising but limiting, what are the promises and and what are the limits? To start, I’d love for you to break down this latest Supreme Court ruling on guns for us. 

Jennifer: What the ruling says is you no longer have to prove that you have a justifiable need, proper cause they call it in the state law, for a concealed carry permit. In addition to meeting all kinds of qualifications, including character references, gun safety classes, applications, employers, proof of residence, you also had to tell authorities why you felt you needed this gun. Usually it’s an urgent threat. Somebody stalking me. And this was used to deny a lot of concealed carry permits. That was struck down. 

But also the judges rewrote the methodology for deciding Second Amendment cases before there were two prongs to this. Lower courts had to figure out, is the gun law in history, does it have a historical analog like, you know, were concealed carry of guns allowed in courtrooms in the 1900s? But also what judges had to do and lower courts had to do was talk about the real world consequences of this. Does this further the government’s interest in reducing crime? The court took that away. So all we have now is in the 18th and 19th century, were these laws constitutional? Were they the law of the land in certain states? 

So we’re looking to 200 year-old precedent instead of real world circumstances. It also took away the ability of law enforcement authorities in seven states to deny a concealed carry permit, even if that applicant met all the qualifications. This was happening a lot in New York City, for instance. You could check every box, but the NYPD would decide that you can’t carry a gun. Usually it’s because local authorities, maybe they have more of a history of the people in their community. 

You know, sometimes residents haven’t been convicted, but they’ve had like ten domestic violence arrests. Well, law enforcement authorities were able to, you know, factor that in. Now, the justices said if you check all the boxes, you have to give this person a permit. And so it brought New York and California, Hawaii, several other states in line with the rest of the country. It’s still hard to get a concealed carry permit here. So it’s not like a free for all. But what it does is, you know, it gives law enforcement less discretion to decide who’s going to carry guns in public. 

And for states that are trying to crack down on gun violence, fewer guns carried means fewer shootings. That’s just math. When we have more gun ownership, even if it’s legal, we have more shootings because more guns are around to steal and those guns go on the criminal market. 

Brittany: So in the midst of all that Supreme Court noise, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which is arguably the most forward motion we’ve seen by Congress to mitigate the gun crisis. Can you break it down? What’s significant about this act and really what’s missing? 

Jennifer: What this act does is it closes something called the boyfriend loophole. So there was a lifetime domestic violence ban on gun ownership for people who have been convicted of domestic abuse. It covered spouses, people you’ve lived with, co-parents, family members, but not dating partners. So you could maybe not live with somebody who was stalking, harassing, and abusing you. They went to court. They were convicted, but they can still own a gun. And it’s because the definition in federal law needed to be changed. And that’s ultimately one thing this bill did, but it didn’t go far enough. 

What it does is it allows these abusive dating partners to get their gun rights back after five years, even though half of domestic violence is perpetrated by dating partners and not spouses. These people can’t get their guns back. So it is an exception from the lifetime ban on domestic violence abusers, but it will still save lives, make no mistake. 

It also directs a lot of federal funding to on the ground gun violence prevention. A lot of community groups. Violence interruption. The Biden administration really has been unprecedented in directing federal dollars to local gun violence hotspots. What this law doesn’t do is raise the age for an assault rifle. It doesn’t ban assault rifles. It is not a universal background check law. This was what they could agree on and it almost didn’t get through. 

Brittany: What’s fascinating is that it’s a hill too far now, but it’s not unprecedented in the United States to have an assault weapons ban. We had one until 2004. Why is it so impossible to push through now? 

Jennifer: It is politically unpalatable to push through any kind of an assault weapons ban. We had one from 1994 to 2004 and we didn’t see the types of public, random mass shootings committed with these weapons. We didn’t see the frequency. It really started to accelerate once those weapons proliferated throughout society. There are about 20 million of them in circulation now in private hands. So it’s a tiny fraction of the 400 million guns that are out there. 

But gun rights advocates say that they won’t part with them. They’re really used for, you know, playing war games on the weekends. Target shooting in your backyard. These aren’t self-defense weapons. They’re not concealable. Nobody is going to go round with them in a holster thinking that they’re going to stop a mass shooting at a supermarket. But it’s something that’s very near and dear to the gun rights advocates who get out and vote for Republicans. And that’s why a ban is very unlikely to pass as long as there is a filibuster is still in effect in the Senate. 

Brittany: I want to talk a little bit about mass shootings and domestic violence and how those are interwoven, because we can trace so many of these shootings back to a history of domestic or gender based violence at the hands of the perpetrator. Why are these two things intertwined? And really, what do we do about that? 

Jennifer: A lot of times a mass shooter will have committed domestic murders before they go out into the world and open fire. A lot of times mass shooters have domestic violence in their backgrounds. I’ve spoken about the connection of it to a lot of researchers and mass shooting is like a public expression of rage and loss of control. And a lot of times those things are connected where the massacre starts in the house and then they take it out on the rest of the world. 

There’s nothing that’s like a tried and true precursor. Like if you see someone with domestic violence, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to open fire in a church. But a lot of times shooters will have these checkmarks in their background: domestic violence, violent misdemeanors. You know, it’s  just a way of the inner rage and loss of control turn to a public forum. And it’s also a suicide issue. A lot of these people are suicidal and committing suicide on a public stage and taking people with them is the appeal of opening fire on random strangers. 

Brittany: How much of that has to do with these larger societal issues of white supremacy and patriarchy? You know, I look at these conversations and I often see Republicans jumping very quickly to issues of mental health and that frustration, that disenchantment with society. As a Black woman, I have long been disenchanted with the society that was never built for me. And I have never and will never pick up a rifle and open fire in a house of worship. 

Jennifer: What we’re seeing is the writing is on the wall for white supremacy in this country. We are headed into a demographic shift that are going to make white people a minority. We’ve been headed there for a long time. I think Trump’s election seems to have rung a bell on the back of a lot of people’s minds, and they’re the people who identify as white above all else, and they see that their way of life is on the decline. They feel that any power given to others is power taken from them. 

And I was thinking back to the first mass shooting. The first major modern mass shooting was the University of Texas at Austin. A white man and mass shooters aren’t all white, but a lot of them are. And it can be tied to this loss of power and control in society when they feel that the society that they’ve been told was created for them to lead. When that expectation falls short and they don’t really have much, you know, support in terms of mental health care or even family support, that can have dangerous consequences. 

But I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that that very first mass shooting in 1966 in Texas was the beginning of the civil rights era. I think that some people saw the writing on the wall and realized that it’s coming to an end. And this has created almost a panic and it’s shaping everything in our society, including who leads us. 

And guns have been since the founding of our country, they are in our DNA, a tool for white people to subjugate indigenous populations and people of color. It is inseparable. The right to bear arms from the second white people stepped onto this continent was inseparable with the subjugation of people of color. And that is very tied into the identity of American gun owners. They feel like it is the power that they can wield. 

Brittany: It’s always so fascinating too because some white people grapple very poorly with the changing face of America, the changing face of their communities. They are quick to forget that it was their immigrant ancestors who were treated much the same way when they first came into these communities. But they were able to assimilate into an overarching whiteness that the rest of us do not benefit from. 

And so we have situations like the University of Texas at Austin. We have mass shootings like the one in Buffalo at the Tops grocery store. And in the wake of these mass shootings, I think a lot of people get rightfully furious at the lack of federal action toward gun reform. Right? What are y’all doing? Why aren’t you specifically doing anything about it, Mr. President? And I know that there is a leadership to be expected there, and it’s also more complicated than that. You mentioned the filibuster before, talk a little bit about some of the complications and what people often get wrong about the executive’s ability to act on issues of gun control. 

Jennifer: Yeah. The president cannot act unilaterally in creating laws and regulations. They can create executive orders that can serve as guidance to different agencies, federal agencies. But that’s as far as they can go. They can issue rules through the ATF, like reclassifying certain gun parts like ghost guns. That rule is going to be finalized soon. Bump stocks. That was also finalized under the former president. But unfortunately, there’s very little that presidents can do. If you remember, President Obama issued a number of executive orders after a rash of really bad mass shootings in 2015, 2016. They have very limited effect, unfortunately. It really is up to Congress and President Biden knows that. You know, he’s been in the Senate. 

Brittany: I am also hoping that we continue to see action from President Biden in leaning on his former colleagues as that is also something a president can do. But this congressional gridlock that we’re experiencing right now on a whole host of issues, including gun control, is really infuriating. What kind of gun reform do you think we would be able to see if the filibuster were not in place? 

Jennifer: Well, if the filibuster weren’t in place and you could get like Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema, they would just need, you know, 51 votes to pass. Probably. Let’s see what’s been passed in the House. Universal background checks. There’s Ethan’s law, which is a safe storage mandate. You know, in many states, there’s no penalty for leaving your gun accessible to minors. There’s a number of bills that have been passed by the House that are just sitting there. The boyfriend loophole was one of them. The boyfriend loophole was in several bills and it brought down several bills. It was the reason the Violence Against Women Act was held up for so long. That reauthorization was because it had a boyfriend loophole provision. 

One thing the president can do, though, and the gun violence victims have urged him to do is open an office for gun violence prevention in the White House. That would signal that it’s a major priority and can get, you know, resources and get a whole staff on it to see what the possibilities are. But if we didn’t have the filibuster, which, as we know, is like, you know, a Jim Crow relic, we would be able to have bills that most people assume there are background checks on all guns. Most people don’t realize a quarter of gun sales go through with no background checks and that that’s legal. Those things would probably be eliminated if we didn’t have the filibuster. 

Brittany:  You know, whenever I have this conversation with people who, let’s say, are more pro-gun than I am, to be sure, one of the big arguments from them is that they don’t want far reaching gun control or gun reform because guns are often used in self-defense. Right? But you wrote an article for The Trace this year titled “How Often are Guns Used for Self-defense?” And in it, you debunk a lot of myths. Tell us what folks believe and then tell us what’s actually the truth. 

Jennifer: So starting after Sandy Hook, the NRA, you know, the head of the NRA gave a speech saying the only thing that’ll stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And that was really something that the NRA had been pumping into the populace for a long time. Americans identities are very much, their sense of safety is very much tied up with “I need a gun to defend myself.” So, you know, the gun lobby has cited a number of researchers who say and they’re slightly pro-gun researchers and they say that there are 2.5 million instances of defensive gun use every year where, you know, somebody shoots somebody in self-defense, but more often it’s brandishing like you, you know, lift up your jacket, show your gun, and a robber will run away. 

Well, that’s really hard to track because police departments don’t have separate categories where they’re tracking defensive gun use. And the numbers are come from surveys that are like 30 years old. So every year the federal government does a survey called the National Crime Victimization Survey, and they survey violent crime victims and they ask them, did you do anything in self-defense. And from those numbers and those are twice yearly surveys, so they’re updated. We get people have either brandished a gun or fired in self-defense around 70,000 times a year. So that’s a lot lower and that’s also a lot lower than the number of gun crimes that are being committed, because now the gun lobby’s new line is there’s more defensive gun use than gun crime. Well, that’s absolutely not true. 

We discovered by analyzing the survey data that there’s seven times more gun crimes than defensive gun use each year in this country. And sadly, we’re seeing the limits of this theory play out, because every mass shooting we’ve had recently, there have been armed people, whether it’s police officers or security guards, and the good guys with guns aren’t stopping the bad guys with guns. So that argument seems to be sunsetting. I mean, the logic there is proven in real time. Sadly, lives are being lost, proving that this argument is not correct, and that is the linchpin for buying a gun in America. You need it for protection. 

That is the heart of the entire argument about why we need to be armed and the fact that it doesn’t hold water. I keep thinking how many more people have to die before everybody is finally on board and seeing that. 

Brittany: I know that this is a moment that sees a lot of activists and journalists who cover this really struggling to keep up. I mean, this is a heavy, heavy time. On our show, we have stopped reporting how many mass shootings there have been this year because we often record one day and then the show gets put up another day and the number will have changed in just 24 hours. We also don’t want to paper over the kind of, you know, community violence that we know wreaks havoc, but isn’t categorized as a mass shooting. You’ve been covering gun violence for years. What made you want to start and really stick with this beat, especially since not much has changed over the last few decades until literally just last week?

Jennifer: Well, I started covering this after Sandy Hook and then it’s something that happens every day in this country more than any other country. And there’s no beat, there’s crime beats. But this isn’t its own field of reporting. And still, we’re the only outlet devoted exclusively to covering this. And when I started covering this, it was seen as a political statement to say that there’s too much gun violence in the United States. It was like if you said that you were a second away from advocacy. Now that that’s completely changed. 

I think that changed with Parkland. I see it changing a lot. And Parkland was really the pivot point because the outrage was I mean, it’s just not a partisan thing anymore to be outraged by this. And I think that became more acceptable. What I have seen is mass shootings are the most visible part of the gun violence epidemic, but they are only they’re less than 5% of shootings every year. So while the mass shootings get national attention, that attention tends to wane between mass shootings. And there’s just so many people getting shot every day. It’s like 120 people every day. So it’s just so much it would be almost impossible to rivet people’s attention. 

Brittany: I imagine, and has probably made it feel like you’ve been sounding some alarms over and over and over. 

Jennifer: It’s like I’m covering the end of the world. It really feels like screaming into the void. And, you know, I’m not even screaming policy prescriptions. That’s not my job. I’m just screaming, hi, these are the problems. And they’re over and over and over again. There’s a reason The Onion keeps running that story “No way to Prevent This” as the only country where this regularly happens. They run it after a mass shooting and then there’s another one, so they just keep it on the page. I used to come home from work and get on the subway and just look around me and say, wow, if I was in another state, you know, I could easily see a mass shooting there. And then it happened and it feels like it’s closing in. 

Brittany: I really want to believe that we are nearing a tipping point, on the cusp of a tipping point. Because clearly this has got to change. It is indeed preventable. And we need to finally have the gumption to prevent it. I’m really struggling, though, to think of a time when there was a crisis of this proportion in the United States, and we managed to resolve the one, let alone the number of crises happening all the time. Is there any historical precedent for what needs to happen in order to end gun violence that we can look to as a blueprint? 

Jennifer: Well, the United States only does the right thing when all of their options have been exhausted, right? So that’s how it’s approached many problems in society. I mean, we ended slavery a hundred years after England. I mean it’s, unfortunately, gun rights are a major plank of the right. We have a situation here where this problem is coinciding and it’s not coincidental with an authoritarian takeover of this country, as we’re seeing with, you know, the election lies and the erosion of democracy and the access to the vote. Gun rights are a major way for Republicans to burnish their conservative credentials, and it’s also a message to their radical far right followers. We care about what you care about. Vote for me. They don’t want to isolate those voters. It’s the same reason they won’t distance themselves from Trump. They feel like they cannot afford to isolate that base. And that base is very pro-gun. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have any real good news on this front, except that at some point enough people with power will say, look, it’s got to change. But unfortunately, the incentive isn’t really there for Republicans to change anything. And as long as they’re rigging the system with unequal representation, you know, in the Senate, that might not change. I’m bracing for civil conflicts that involves firearms because the people who want this far right regime in this country are the ones who own all the guns pretty much. 

Brittany:  I mean, it’s terrifying. 

Jennifer: I know. 

Brittany: And yet your honesty is necessary. What do you think that conflict looks like? 

Jennifer: We’ve seen armed protesters at state houses. We saw them enter the Michigan State House before January 6th as what people are saying was kind of a warm up for the insurrection. The next time they come to D.C., what if they are all armed? There’s a reason that the officers say they didn’t open fire on the crowd that day. It’s because they didn’t know if a thousand people were going to fire back at them. 

The gun ownership in that population, it suppresses free speech. I mean, we’re going to see fewer people come out to protest. I already know a friend of mine in Texas and she lives in Austin. She does not want to go to any demonstrations. She’s afraid that someone’s going to shoot her. And what I also see is a lot of people of color and people on the left who are buying guns for protection. And I’m worried that both of those groups are going to end up firing on each other in the streets. That’s what I’m concerned about. 

And then you have civil conflict. And that’s what that looks like. You also have in states like Idaho, militia members roaming the streets, pretending to impose order that they don’t have the authority to impose and prosecutors not doing anything, even though every state has some kind of an anti-militia or anti-paramilitary law. Law enforcement doesn’t seem to want to do anything about it. 

Brittany: And some of them are members. So, yeah. 

Jennifer: Yes.

Brittany:  I mean, you’re talking about roving gangs full of Kyle Rittenhouses, right? 

Jennifer: Yes.

Brittany: I mean, do you think it is possible to prevent this or do you think it’s a lost cause? Like, what would it take to not make that disastrous turn? 

Jennifer: It would take the country deciding it does not have the appetite for this. A bunch of people deciding we’re not going to do this and sapping that movement of its power. That comes in the form of votes. The vote is something that is being whittled away in many states. You know, you have the state legislatures are very powerful and they’re the ones that are legislating guns in the absence of the federal government. So you have states now like Missouri that passed a law that they are not going to cooperate with the authorities when it comes to gun cases. They’re not going to honor any new federal laws. This federal law that just passed, they’re not going to enforce it. 

We have situations like that. We’re going to have a red and blue divide where we have an armed red America. You know, where you also have no access to reproductive care. The schism is getting much deeper. 

Brittany: Well, before I let you go, if there’s one thing I know about our community at UNDISTRACTED, it is that we are action-oriented people. So you talk about folks coming together to decide fundamentally that we do not have the appetite for this. How do we do that? What are some of the concrete actions that our listeners, our community, can take as civilians to really sway gun reform right now legislatively or at the grassroots level? 

Jennifer: There are some states where you can get gun laws on the ballot. You know, it leaves out a lot of red states, but there are a lot of blue states that have strengthened their gun laws by putting universal background checks on the ballot. Those are voter driven and volunteer driven actions. That is definitely something that can be done. I don’t want to say vote because, you know, democrats are saying vote like it can change everything when we know that the country is gerrymandered in a lot of respects. 

So talk to your friends in red states. Get them to vote because that’s what’s going to make the difference in the Senate. What gives me hope is that young people like the Parkland generation, they’re not having it. They don’t understand why it’s like this. They never have a memory of school where there’s no active shooter drills. I cannot imagine what that does to the psyche of a child in this country. 

In addition to the fact that a lot of schools are overpoliced. But the activism and the involvement, the civic involvement of the younger generation, I really think that’s what’s going to make the difference. But the people still living in red states, you know, call up your friend in Texas, get them to vote. 

Brittany: Well, it sounds like we’ve got some calls to make. Jennifer, thank you for staying on this beat and for giving us the truths we need to hear, despite how challenging and scary they are. I do believe we can make a difference if we get serious now. So thanks so much for talking to us. 

Jennifer: Thanks for having me. 

Brittany: Jennifer Mascia is a writer at The Trace, the only team of journalists exclusively dedicated to reporting on the gun violence crisis in the United States. 

It’s like I’m covering the end of the world. 

You know, I think at least we are covering the last throes of white supremacy, which may feel like the end of the world to those folks Jennifer spoke of, who believe that the rest of us gaining even an ounce of equity means they lose, lose their identity, their power, their lives, so they create their civil conflict on January 6th, then in Charlottesville and on Black Wall Street in Tulsa and in East Saint Louis last century. They’ve been doing this for centuries. They’ve been feeling under threat of extinction and pushing back violently to defend what they believed to be theirs and theirs alone. And Jennifer laid out a pretty scary picture of the new civil conflict we could be heading for now. And it’s terrifying as all that is. Looking back at history actually gives me a clear reminder if the violence isn’t new. Neither is our ability to resist it. 

To keep pressing. To look at someone like Mother Fletcher, a survivor of the Black Wall Street massacre, as she rolled into court back in May, still determined to demand the reparations that rightfully belonged to her from when her community was burned and her people were killed. Mother Fletcher is still here, still fighting. You know, it’s going to take everything we have in us. But I look at Mother Fletcher and we dare not give up. There’s no other option. No other option than to create the safe and free world we deserve together. 

That’s it for today, but never for tomorrow. 


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Thanks for listening. Thanks for being. And especially today thanks for doing.  

I’m Brittany Packnett Cunningham.

Let’s go get free.