In recent weeks, it seems like America has arrived at a crucial crossroads in its long and painful history of gun violence. In the wake of several high-profile mass shootings in Atlanta, in Boulder, Colo., and most recently, in Indianapolis, Ind., there is a growing sense of outrage and demand for solutions. And in Washington, for the first time in several years, political leadership in Congress and the White House is aligned in seeking to create new laws to rein in the worst aspects of American gun violence. So there is a glimmer of hope that Washington might make some progress on an issue that has been gridlocked for many years.

Already, President Biden has announced executive orders and other policy changes at the Justice Department and elsewhere throughout the federal government, including rules to stop the proliferation of homemade “ghost guns” and new guidelines on braces that can turn certain pistols into a short-barreled rifle. And the Biden Administration will deploy new resources for violence intervention through five federal agencies.

But major efforts to stem gun violence will still require new legislation and it remains challenging to get new gun laws passed, especially through a Senate that is evenly split down party lines. But at least the Senate is controlled by Democrats and may therefore at least consider bringing gun legislation forward, where previously, in a Republican-controlled Senate, such proposals were not even allowed to be brought forward for consideration.

With this political background in mind, it’s useful to remind ourselves of the many ways that media funders and media makers have devoted tremendous creative and journalistic resources to illuminate this troubled issue. Each of these efforts—reporting initiatives, documentary films, research projects and more—have contributed to our collective understanding of the impact of gun violence on our country. And over the years, we have highlighted many of them.

Going back nearly a decade, Media Impact Funders presented several screenings and discussions concerning The Interrupters, which portrayed the brave work of community activists in Chicago who created an innovative effort to interrupt gun violence. In a similar vein, we organized screenings and discussions concerning Newtown, the deeply personal and heartbreaking story of the lives lost in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn.

We also reported on the extensive efforts of some of the leading funders who have devoted significant resources to study and advocate around the issue of gun violence, like the Joyce Foundation, which has distinguished itself as one of the nation’s leading funders in this area. Another major funding initiative on gun violence was the Kendeda Fund’s special project, Guns & America, a collaboration between 10 public radio stations to create a national reporting network to cover myriad reporting angles on this complex story. And more recently, The Trace, a nonprofit news organization focused on investigating gun violence in America, has created Up the Block, a new resource hub for Philadelphians affected by gun violence, with support from the Emerson Collective.

These are but a few of the media projects supported by philanthropy, illuminating the grim territory of gun violence in America. As we confront the major milestones and contemplate the possibility of long-sought reforms, it’s important to recognize the many contributions that media makers and media funders have made to light the way.

About the Author
Vincent Stehle

Vincent Stehle

Executive Director

Before joining Media Impact Funders in 2011 as executive director, Vince was program director for Nonprofit Sector Support at the Surdna Foundation, a family foundation based in New York City. Prior to joining Surdna, Stehle worked for 10 years as a reporter for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, where he covered a broad range of issues about the nonprofit sector. Stehle has served as chairperson of Philanthropy New York and on the governing boards of VolunteerMatch and the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Currently, he serves on the board of directors of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.