The Trace (website)

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The Trace (website) logo.png
Formation19 June 2015 (2015-06-19)
Editorial director
James Burnett[1]
Enterprise editor
Lee Smith[1]
Senior engagement editor
Akoto Ofori-Atta[1]
News editor
Miles Kohrman[1]
Staff (2015)

The Trace is an American independent non-profit journalism outlet devoted to gun-related news in the United States. It was established in 2015 with seed money from the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, which was founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and went live on June 19 of that year. The site's editorial director is James Burnett.


John Feinblatt said the idea for The Trace stemmed from the difficulties faced by Everytown for Gun Safety, where he serves as President, to obtain "information about gun violence". He used the example of the Tiahrt Amendment (named after its author U.S. Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)), a provision of the 2003 DOJ appropriations bill that prohibited the ATF's National Tracing Center from sharing its firearms trace database with anyone besides law enforcement agencies or prosecutors in a criminal investigation.[2] The Amendment also "blocks any data legally released from being admissible in civil lawsuits against gun sellers or manufacturers," and is supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA).[3] Everytown for Gun Safety, and other organizations say that gun trace data is "important information needed for solving crimes such as "tracing guns from the point of sale to their use in violent crimes".[4]

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg had founded Everytown for Gun Safety "which was created after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 where more than 20 people died, most of them young children.[5] The editorial news director, James Burnett said, "We do bring a point of view to the issue of gun violence: We believe there is too much of it. But our focus is on a related problem: the shortage of information on the subject at large."[5]


Trace partners with other national and local media organizations, including The Atlantic,[6] Slate,[7] Lenny[8] The Daily News,[9] Vice,[citation needed] The Guardian,[10] Tampa Bay Times,[11] Newsweek,[12] The Huffington Post,[13] TIME [14] Fusion,[15] The Undefeated,[16] Politico Magazine,[17] Essence,[18] The Chicago Sun-Times,[19] and The New Yorker.[20]

In a partnership with The Atlantic, The Trace investigated the reasons the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has an annual budget of over $11 billion, stopped doing research on gun violence. In a Trace interview, Mark Rosenberg, a founder of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the division of the agency responsible for doing gun violence research, Rosenberg said that it was "the leadership of the CDC who stopped the agency from doing gun violence research. The Injury Center, established by Rosenberg and five colleagues in 1992, had an annual budget of c. $260,000 focused on "identifying the root causes of firearm deaths and the best methods to prevent them".[6] Rosenberg told The Trace in 2016, "Right now, there is nothing stopping them from addressing this life-and-death national problem."[6] It was previously assumed that the research was not being done because of a sentence in the 1996 Dickey Amendment, which was supported by the NRA, and inserted into the 1996 appropriations bill which stated "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control".[21] In 1997, "Congress redirected all of the money previously earmarked for gun violence research to the study of traumatic brain injury."[6] David Satcher, who was the CDC head from 1993 to 1998,[22] advocated for gun violence research until he left in 1998. In 1999 Rosenberg was fired.[6] Over a dozen "public health insiders, including current and former CDC senior leaders" told Trace interviewers that CDC seniour leaders took an overly cautious stance in their interpretation of the Dickey amendment. They could have done much more.[6]


The Trace keeps track of NRA spending on elections. The NRA broke its own record of $31.7 million in 2014 with $36.3 million in 2016 in support of Donald Trump's candidacy for president.[23]

The Gunfighters[edit]

The NPR described "The Trace" as independent journalism organization "dedicated to covering America's gun violence crisis."[24]

Mike Spies, who has been reporting on the gun lobby since 2015, wrote a series called "The Gunfighters", which investigated the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on state gun policy and politics.[24]

In his March 17, 2016 article, Spies described how the NRA began to use their scoring system to influence judicial nominations. The first attempt was during the confirmation proceedings of Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 at the request of Mitch McConnell and again in 2010 with Elena Kagan. In 2011, the NRA opposed Caitlin Halligan's nomination to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and as a result, Senate Republicans blocked her confirmation. In 2016, the NRA opposed the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court because he did not "respect the individual right to bear arms" - in 2007, Garland had "cast a vote in favor of allowing his court to review a crucial opinion by a three-judge panel that had found D.C.'s handgun ban unconstitutional."[25] This article was cited in The Second Amendment and Gun Control: Freedom, Fear, and the American Constitution which presented both sides of the debate between those who "favour more gun controls and those who would prefer fewer of them."[26]

In an article that was published in The Trace on October 10, 2016 and in Newsweek on October 21,[27] Spies described how an 11-year-old boy shot his 8-year-old neighbor, MaKayla, with a 12-gauge shotgun on October 3, 2015, when she refused to let him see puppies. The shooting death was a catalyst in bringing Child access prevention law or safe storage legislation to Tennessee. The legislation was called "MaKayla's Law". However, the NRA was promoting Eddie Eagle GunSafe as an alternative to the (CAP law) or safe storage law. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist who promoted the stand-your-ground law, created the Eddie Eagle GunSafe program in the late 1980s[28] NRA lobbyist Erin Luper, successfully rallied lawmakers against "MaKayla's Law" and promoted Eddie Eagle instead. She then emailed NRA members in Tennessee to urge lawmakers to oppose it.[28] In the same article, Spies described how the NRA targeted Tennessee Republican lawmaker Debra Maggart in 2012 when she tabled legislation that would have "allowed Tennessee residents to keep firearms in their cars, even in business parking lots." Prior to this incident, Maggart, lifetime NRA member, had earned an A+ grade from the NRA for her support of pro-gun laws. Unhappy with her role in slowing down the legislation, the NRA invested in her opponent who had no political experience, and paid for a billboard campaign against her in her next bid for election. According to Maggart, who had a "69 percent approval rating in her district" before the election, she lost her primary - the NRA destroyed her political career. "I'd never once voted against them. But they decided to teach the General Assembly a lesson."[28]

Spies October 13, 2016 article described how Lisa Monroe, a University of Oklahoma School of Education early childhood education specialist, unwittingly worked with the NRA to promote the Eddie Eagle GunSafe as an alternative to the CAP law. By 2016, according to the NRA, 28 million children had been gone through the Eddie Eagle program. In 2016, NRA lobbyist testified against a safe storage bill in Tennessee, saying that the Eddie Eagle program was the best way "to reduce firearm-related accidents" regarding children.[29]

The series included the November 4, 2016 "The NRA's Straight-A Student" which was published in a partnership between New York Daily News and The Trace, describing how the NRA uses a grading system for lawmakers from A+ to F. Politicians who show "unfailing loyalty" to the NRA and vote pro-gun legislation can earn an A+. Across the United States, the NRA rates 4,095 of 7,300 individual state lawmakers, as A- or higher.[30]

In an article about the shooting death of 10-year-old Martinez Smith-Payne, which was published in partnership with the Rolling Stone, Spies described how the man who shot him only received a "single charge of wrongfully possessing a firearm." Don Tyson, a veteran city prosecutor, and a member of the National Rifle Association, who had taken part in well over 200 trials, used the argument of "reasonable fear" and stand-your-ground.[31] In his January 1, 2017 article "State Republicans Are In Their Strongest Position In a Century. And They're Ready to Dismantle Two Big Gun Restrictions", Spies described Republican plans to focus on dismantling two gun restriction laws that required licensing for concealed weapons and disallowed guns of college campuses in 2017.[32] His April 24 article entitled "Black Politicians are Fighting a 'Stand Your Ground' Resurgence", a law that authorizes "residents to use lethal means to protect themselves in certain situations",[33] Spies traced the origins of the Stand-your-ground law to the successful lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association in Florida in 2005. By 2012, 21 states had enacted the law, which Spies claimed, "disproportionately justified the fatal shootings of African-Americans".[33]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "About The Trace". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  2. ^ Knight, Heather (June 19, 2007). "Mayors Fight Gun Measure". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  3. ^ "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Series | Comedy Central Official Site |". 2016-09-30. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  4. ^ Calderone, Michael (16 June 2015). "The Trace, Bloomberg-Backed Journalism Startup, Tackles Gun Violence 'Epidemic'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b Haberman, Maggie (19 June 2015). "Bloomberg's Gun-Control Group Funds News Site After Shooting". New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Masters, Kate (April 5, 2016). "Why Did the CDC Stop Researching Gun Violence?". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 21, 2018. The agency's former leaders say it could do more to explore the subject, but its officials fear political—and personal—retribution.
  7. ^ How Many People Have Been Shot in Your Neighborhood This Year? Slate. 2015.
  8. ^ Will the Supreme Court Let These Domestic Abusers Get Their Guns Back? Lenny Letter.
  9. ^ NRA is now almost entirely a pro-Republican group, spending more money than ever to ensure Congress doesn’t enact any gun safety laws New York Daily News.
  10. ^ 'Scared straight' programs divide parents as kids see gruesome results of violence The Guardian. 2016.
  11. ^ Swiftmud dropped gun club lawsuit one day after lawmaker sent NRA-crafted dismissal plan, records show Tampa Bay Times
  12. ^ " When Kids Pull the Trigger, Who is Responsible? Not Gun Owners, the NRA Says Newsweek.
  13. ^ What Kind Of Person Calls A Mass Shooting A Hoax? The Huffington Post
  14. ^ The Little Superheroes of Townville Time.
  15. ^ America’s obsession with powerful handguns is giving criminals deadlier tools Fusion.
  16. ^ Watched By 2,000 Cops, Rattled By Two More Fatal Shootings, J’ouvert Revelers Take Stock The Undefeated
  17. ^ Why Jeff Sessions’ Recycled Crime-Fighting Strategy Is Doomed to Fail Politico Magazine
  18. ^ A Young Chicago Woman Has Lost 23 Loved Ones to Gun Violence and Wants You To See Their Faces Essence
  19. ^ On Patrol With Chicago’s Last Violence Interrupters The Chicago Sun-Times
  20. ^ Kohrman, Miles (October 4, 2017). "The Las Vegas Shooter's Accessories". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  21. ^ "Public Law 104–208" (PDF). Congressional Record. September 30, 1996. ... none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.
  22. ^ Office of Public Health and Science (January 4, 2007). "David Satcher (1998-2002)". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Archived from the original on December 5, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2008.
  23. ^ Friedman, Dan (12 October 2016). "The NRA Has Broken Its Record for Election Spending". The Trace. Retrieved 20 February 2018. The gun group's 2016 outlay in support of Republican candidates has already surpassed what it spent two years ago.
  24. ^ a b "NRA-Backed Gun Laws Have Found Success In State Legislatures Across The U.S". NPR. 5 October 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  25. ^ Spies, Mike (17 March 2016). "The NRA's New Playbook for Making Gun-Grabbers Out of Democratic Nominees". The Trace. Retrieved 20 February 2018. The gun-rights group mines the histories of the president's judicial nominees for anything that resembles a stance on firearms, and finds a way to use it against them.
  26. ^ Yuill, Kevin; Street, Joe (12 September 2017). The Second Amendment and Gun Control: Freedom, Fear, and the American Constitution. Routledge. p. 159. ISBN 9781351783347.
  27. ^ Spies, Mike (21 October 2016). "When Kids Pull the Trigger, Who is Responsible? Not Gun Owners, the NRA Says". Newsweek. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  28. ^ a b c Spies, Mike (10 October 2016). "MaKayla Dyer Lost Her Life Over a Puppy. Her Grieving Mother Lost to the NRA". The Gunfighters. The Trace. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  29. ^ Spies, Mike (13 October 2016). "Academic Who Helped Design the NRA's Child Gun Safety Program Says the Group Is Misusing It". The Gunfighters. The Trace. Retrieved 20 February 2018. Lisa Monroe says Eddie Eagle was never intended to be a substitute for safe storage laws.
  30. ^ Spies, Mike (4 November 2016). "The NRA's Straight-A Student". The Gunfighters. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  31. ^ Spies, Mike (28 December 2016). "The Reasonable Killing of an 89-Pound Boy". The Gunfighters. Retrieved 20 February 2018. A child is gunned down for stealing change in heavily armed St. Louis, and Missouri gets a taste of what justice looks like when the NRA calls the shots.
  32. ^ Spies, Mike (1 January 2017). "State Republicans Are In Their Strongest Position In a Century. And They're Ready to Dismantle Two Big Gun Restrictions". The Gunfighters. Retrieved 20 February 2018. Bills to end training and licensing requirements for concealed carry and to allow guns on college campuses loom as pivotal fights for 2017.
  33. ^ a b Spies, Mike (24 April 2017). "Black Politicians are Fighting a 'Stand Your Ground' Resurgence". The Gunfighters. Retrieved 20 February 2018. But four years after Trayvon Martin, the odds are increasingly against them.