|Bay Window : GunShots: Press Release
KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting Take Aim at Violence and Illegal Gun Sales in the Bay Area
Bay Window "GunShots: Gun Trafficking and Violence in the Bay Area" Examines the Connections Between Violence and Illegal Gun Sales in Northern California
"I was blown away with how easy it was."
Sean Twomey, convicted gun trafficker, talking about how easy it was to circumvent federal laws and start dealing guns illegally.
San Francisco, CA, April 24, 2001School shootings dominate the news, but gang-related killings, drug-related "drive bys," and domestic violence shootings are far more representative of homicidal gun violence today, especially for our youth. In the United States, the firearm death rate among children under the age of 15 years is 12 times higher than that for children of 25 other industrialized nations combined.
California and the Bay Area are far from immune to the violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, in 1998 homicide by firearm was the leading cause of death among both African American and Hispanic young men for ages 15-24 in California. An estimated 75 percent of the total 263 bay area homicides recorded by the California Department of Justice in 1999 were firearm-related.
While most people agree that there is a severe problem with gun violence, the causes and proposed solutions vary greatly. "GunShots," an hour-long Bay Window investigation airing at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 4 on KQED Public Television 9, explores one important causethe ease with which criminals can obtain cheap handguns. The program also examines solutions by speaking with a wide array of local and national groups about their work around gun violence.
Through examining one case in particular, "GunShots" investigates a system that allows wholesale gun distributors to sell large numbers of guns to dealers without any obligation to check the validity of the buyer's Federal Firearm License (FFL). In the case of Sean Twomey, head of one of the largest gun-trafficking rings ever uncovered by United States law enforcement, he was able to apply for and receive an FFL to sell guns from his home, in spite of a local ordinance restricting that activity, and when the license expired, he simply altered the expiration date.
"GunShots" explores the responses to gun violence promoted by citizen organizations and law enforcement. In 1996, the Clinton administration mandated a new programYouth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative. The program identifies target cities and works to analyze crime guns to give a better understanding of how illegal guns are getting into the hands of criminals. San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland are all target cities.
Project Exile, an approach favored by many conservative groups and gun rights activists, calls for tougher laws and sentencing aimed at reducing gun violence. Other community-based organizationssuch as the East Bay's Youth Alive which includes both Teens on Target and Caught in the Crossfirework directly with young people to help them develop skills and alternatives to violence in resolving disputes, and advocate tighter gun control laws.
In the wake of successful state lawsuits against the tobacco industry, cities across the country began to sue the gun industry. In 1999, San Francisco, joined by Sacramento, Oakland, Berkeley and the counties of San Mateo and Alameda, sued 28 gun manufacturers and 6 distributors in an effort to achieve widespread industry reform and reduce gun violence and associated costs in these municipalities. The suit charges, among other things, that gun manufacturers make and distribute substantially more guns than they could reasonably expect to sell in the legal market and that they do not screen and monitor their distributors, permitting many guns to fall into the wrong hands. The suit is still pending.
"The subject of gun violence and the seeming ease with which these guns are obtained is an important matter to all of us," said Bay Window host Scott Shafer. " 'GunShots' looks at the situation from many different anglesthrough interviews with law enforcement officials, violence prevention groups and even criminals themselves. We hope to promote dialogue to address this very real public health crisis."
The "GunShots" companion Web site, kqed.org/baywindow, provides interview transcripts, information on the organizations featured in the show, and important links related to violence prevention. Immediately after the program, Bay Window will host a live, online discussion from 10 to 10:30 p.m. when viewers can ask the program's Peabody and Emmy award-winning producer, Doug Hamilton, questions and discuss their own views.
Bay Window, hosted by Scott Shafer, is an award-winning, monthly series exploring issues that affect our lives in the Bay Area and reflect civic life nationwide. Through television, print, the Web and outreach programs, Bay Window engages people in dialogue, convenes critical stakeholders and builds new connections within our communities. Bay Window airs the first Friday of the month.
Bay Window "GunShots" is a co-production of KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting, in association with theRake. Bay Window is underwritten by The James Irvine Foundation, with additional support from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and the Funders' Collaborative/Tides Foundation.
The nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting fosters justice, democratic values and accountability by conducting and promoting media investigations of underreported issues in the public interest. Since its founding in 1977, CIR has completed hundreds of investigations for major news organizations, such as 60 Minutes, 20/20, FRONTLINE, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio. For more information, visit CIR's Web site at www.muckraker.org.
KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most-watched public television station, and Digital Television 30, Northern California's only public television digital signal; KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, one of the most-listened-to public radio stations in the nation; the KQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents and media professionals through workshops, seminars and resources; and kqed.org, which harnesses the power of the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.