“Like everyone, and I’d say especially like every parent, I am of course saddened and horrified by the latest mass shooting-murder. My sympathies to all,” James Fallows, a longtime correspondent for this magazine, wrote nearly a decade ago on July 20, 2012. That day, a gunman had opened fire on theater-goers in Aurora, Colorado. A dozen people were dead.
He continued: “And of course the additional sad, horrifying, and appalling point is the shared American knowledge that, beyond any doubt, this will happen again, and that it will happen in America many, many times before it occurs anywhere else.”
In the years since, Americans have watched Fallows’s words become relevant time and time again. And they are relevant again today, as the country attempts to process the news that a gunman has killed 18 children and a teacher at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
We are covering and will continue to cover the specifics of the Texas shooting in the coming days. But we also are reflecting on the longer history of guns in this country. Below, you’ll find a collection of this magazine’s previous coverage of the topic, written by our staff, as well as by a doctor, a high-school student, and others who have been hurt by gun violence. This list is nonexhaustive and offered in no particular order. It will certainly be relevant again.
1. “What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns” by Heather Sher (2018)
A radiologist who was on shift during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School describes what it’s like to examine the CT scan of a victim wounded by an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
2. “I’m Not Afraid of COVID-19. I’m Afraid of School Shootings.” by Vedika Jawa (2021)
A high-school senior from Fremont California shares her fear: “I worry that one day the school experiencing a mass shooting won’t be in Parkland, Florida, or Newtown, Connecticut, but in my city.”
3. “What Critics Don’t Understand About Gun Culture” by David French (2018)
The Atlantic contributing writer and author of the Third Rail newsletter explains why he chooses to carry a gun and what he appreciates about America’s gun culture.
4. “The Story of a Gun” by Erik Larson (1993)
Gunmakers are able to market their products for their killing power, while dodging responsibility for how they might be used, Larson wrote in our January 1993 cover story.
5. “How to Persuade Americans to Give Up Their Guns” by David Frum (2021)
The pandemic led to a surge in gun ownership, our staff writer reports. Can Americans be convinced to change course?
6. “When Was the Last Time American Children Were So Afraid?” by Joe Pinsker (2019)
In the Family section, our reporter looks at the effects of mass-shooting drills on American children: “These lockdowns can be scarring, causing some kids to cry and wet themselves.”
7. “Seven Autumns of Mourning in Newtown” by Carol Ann Davis (2019)
A resident of Newtown, Connecticut, describes what it’s like to mourn each fall: “In those weeks between Halloween and the anniversary of the tragedy, even from my own distance from the events of that day, I find it hard to stand up, hard to go on.”
8. “The False Promise of Gun Control” by Daniel D. Polsby (1994)
“Guns don’t increase national rates of crime and violence—but the continued proliferation of gun-control laws almost certainly does,” Polsby argued in the mid-’90s.
9. “A Lynch Mob of One” by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)
“Preventing today’s lynch mob involves removing the assault rifle from his hands and the rifle of racist ideas from his mind,” our contributing writer argued after the 2019 shooting in El Paso, Texas.
10. “Why Can’t the U.S. Treat Gun Violence as a Public-Health Problem?” by Sarah Zhang (2018)
An amendment to a 1996 bill limits what the CDC can study, and has “had a chilling effect on the entire field for decades,” our science reporter notes.
11. “The Secret History of Guns” by Adam Winkler (2011)
“The Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that, were they running for office today, the NRA would not endorse them,” Winkler reports in his article on how the gun-control debate has distorted history.
12. “The Bullet in My Arm” by Elaina Plott (2018)
Our then–staff writer describes her own brush with gun violence: being hit by a bullet while driving near her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
13. “The Children of the Children of Columbine” by Ashley Fetters (2019)
Survivors of the 1999 mass shooting at the Colorado high school are now “old enough to have children of their own,” and that means they have to talk to their kids about things like lockdown drills, a then–staff writer Fetters reports.
14. “The ‘Unfortunate Family’ of American Shooting Survivors” by Julie Beck (2017)
“Survivor-to-survivor connections can become a refuge for those affected by gun violence,” one Atlantic senior editor wrote following the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas.
15. “Why Can’t Democrats Pass Gun Control?” by Stephen Gutowski (2021)
“The deadlock isn’t the result of the NRA paying off politicians to vote against the wishes of their constituents,” the founder of The Reload, a publication that covers firearm policy, reports. “It’s much simpler than that.”
16. “The Certainty of More Shootings” by James Fallows (2012)
“I am an optimist about most things, but not about this,” the longtime Atlantic contributor writes.