Firearm violence — suicide, homicide and shooting injuries — poses one of the greatest threats to the health and wellbeing of communities across the country. It's one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. for adults, and in 2021 became the leading cause for kids and teens. A shooting is not only devastating for victims and their loved ones; the trauma reverberates throughout the community, heightens the risk of more violence and costs local, state and federal governments billions of dollars.
While firearm violence is a complicated problem without easy solutions, effective prevention methods are rooted in public health, which requires a deeper understanding of how a person’s quality of life puts them at a lesser or greater risk of being involved in a shooting or dying by suicide. But even with a greater awareness regarding the root causes of firearms deaths, news organizations still primarily report on gun violence through the lenses of crime and politics. Instead, journalists should approach coverage of violence through a public health and policy lens, looking at risk factors, prevention methods and data.
Kaitlin Washburn is a freelance journalist based in Chicago, primarily working for the Chicago Sun-Times. She was a gun violence reporter for two years in Missouri for The Kansas City Star as a Report for America corps member. Previously, Washburn was an agriculture reporter covering the omnipresent industry in California’s Central Valley for The Sun-Gazette, also as a part of RFA. Prior to that, Washburn had internships at the Morning Call in Pennsylvania, the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C. and The Oregonian in Portland. In 2019, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. At MU, her emphasis was in investigative reporting, and she spent three years as a researcher for Investigative Reporters and Editors, also based at MU. She is a San Diego native.