Jim MacMillan: Swarthmore-based journalist addresses nation’s gun crisis

Guns have taken over the headlines. Whether it’s the mass attack in Aurora or an almost-daily exchange of gunfire in Philadelphia, flying bullets seem to be featured in every other news story.

This is a public health issue, according to Jim MacMillan. “It’s like smoking, not using seat belts, unprotected sex,” he says — behaviors that used to be taken for granted that are now recognized as unacceptably dangerous. “Colossal changes have been made on those issues, and we can do it again,” MacMillan says.

MacMillan is journalist in residence at Swarthmore College, where he teaches conflict journalism. Last winter, he started planning a project for this summer: a documentary about the epidemic of gun violence in Philadelphia. He started a website (www.guncrisis.org) to gather information.

“I quickly found partners who also want to not only study [the subject], but do something about it,” he says. Joe Kaczmarek and Tom Kelly, both photojournalists, and writer Tara Murtha have joined the team, along with an intern from Temple and two from Swarthmore.

“We want to empower individual visitors [to use the website],” MacMillan explains. “We’re here to help organize resources — both visitors who need help themselves and those who can offer to help others.”

Although MacMillan’s documentary project has been pushed to the back burner, he’s enthusiastic about what is happening through the website.

“I’m truly optimistic,” MacMillan says. “I don’t think it will be easy, but I hope we can make a difference.”


An important part of the Gun Crisis mission is to follow up on the victims of gun violence and the circumstances that led to the shootings. “It’s a two-way street,” MacMillan says. “Friends and families find us, but we also look for them through social media and other channels.”

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