If you've ventured down to Daley Plaza in the last 24 hours, you've undoubtedly noticed a new addition to the Plaza, a new art exhibit entitled the Metro Gun Share Program. The design of the art piece will look extremely familiar to Chicagoans; it looks exactly like a Divvy bike share docking station. However, you'll immediately notice that there aren't bikes in the docks..but AR-15 style rifles (to me, they look very much like M-16 rifles, including no collapsible butt stock).
The new art exhibit, in Daley Plaza until Wednesday, May 16th, is a joint effort between Chicago advertising agency The Escape Pod and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. According to the Escape Pod's website:
We are an independent creative advertising agency. We have created everything from a branded content TV show to a new brand of whiskey. We combine creative firepower with full-service capabilities across strategy, creative, digital, social, experiential marketing, and media planning & buying.
If you're in any way, shape, or form engaged with the gun violence prevention movement in America, you're undoubtedly familiar with the Brady Campaign. They are a large national organization, named after Jim Brady, who was paralyzed after being shot in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. According to their website:
The mission of the Brady organization and its Million Mom March is to create a safer America by cutting gun deaths in half by 2025.
Of the 33,000 people who die from gun violence in this country each year, how many could be saved?
Brady has announced the bold goal to cut the number of U.S. gun deaths in half by 2025, based on an innovative and exciting strategy that centers on the idea of keeping guns out of the wrong hands through three impact-driven, broadly engaging campaigns: (1) a policy focus to "Finish the Job" so that life-saving Brady background checks are applied to all gun sales; (2) to "Stop 'Bad Apple' Gun Dealers" – the 5 percent of gun dealers that supply 90 percent of all crime guns; and (3) to lead a new national conversation and change social norms around the real dangers of guns in the home, to prevent the homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings that happen every day as a result.
I love the concept of the art piece. I love just about anything provocative, and it takes to task one of the overarching ideologies of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is: More guns equal more safety! If that were true, wouldn't it make sense to have more guns readily available?
Anyone who pays attention to the statistics behind gun violence in Chicago, a topic I've discussed several times (click here to view gun violence related posts), you'll know that unfortunately, guns in Chicago are readily available. Chicago Police confiscate thousands of guns off of Chicago streets. 40% of those guns confiscated come from within Illinois, and 60% come from outside. One of the largest contributors to this stream of guns is Indiana. One of the points that the Metro Gun Share Program seeks to point out is the disparity in gun laws between Illinois and our good ole neighbors next door, who have gun laws that are decidedly weak. You can view a photo in the gallery that directly compares the two states' gun laws.
I also love anything that raises awareness and educates people on the facts surrounding gun violence, and not just the bro science that so many people toss around, including NRA hardliners. The fact is that if more guns equaled more safety, Chicago should be decidedly more safer, because guns are floating around with relative ease thanks to our inconsiderate neighbors. Recently, I heard the NRA talking head Colion Noir discussing on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast how dangerous Chicago is due to gang violence, while simultaneously attempting to espouse the idea that more guns equal more safety because the presence of guns nullifies aggression. If that were true, wouldn't we see that effect between gangs? Between people who have interpersonal conflict? In fact, some of the most dangerous states in our union are states with the highest rates of gun ownership. The deadliest state, that with the highest gun death rate, last year was actually Alaska. And as an aspect of gun violence that no one likes to discuss, that high rate of gun death actually was largely a result of suicide.
Finally, the Metro Gun Share Program has a small, solar powered kiosk that allows you to make a donation to the Brady Campaign. This is probably the only aspect of the art exhibit that I take issue with. While I appreciate the Brady Campaign and the work that they do, there are many organizations much more tightly connected to Chicago and our specific gun issues and needs, and prevention thereof, such as the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, or The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Full disclosure, I work very closely with both of these organizations. However, they work specifically on Illinois gun issues, and with the Illinois legislature. I could also think of organizations such as My Block, My Hood, My City, Guitars Over Guns, The Healing Corner, Mothers Against Senseless Shootings, Mothers Against Senseless Killings, iGrow Chicago, Kusanya Cafe....there's a long list to choose from. Brady is a national organization. They simply don't have as much skin in the game here in Chicago as other organizations.
I encourage you to check out the exhibit. I actually began taking a video discussing the exhibit, but my phone died. Fortunately, I snapped some pictures first. I would love to hear thoughts on the exhibit. In the short time I spent visiting it, almost everyone who crossed paths with it stopped and read the kiosk, or stopped and takes pictures. It's jarring for sure, and immediately gets you thinking, especially in light of the uptick of violence we've seen over the past two weeks. If we don't tackle these problems, it will be a long, arduous, and sad summer.
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Tags: Chicago, Colion Noir, guitars over guns, gun violence, iGrow Chicago, Illinois Council Against Gun Violence, Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, ISRA, Joe Rogan, kusanya cafe, MASK, Metro Gun Share Program, My block my hood my city, NRA, the escape pod, the healing corner