Explaining Monday – Gun Day

Why am I still ranting about guns? Explanation finally comes 16 episodes in.

**HERE LIVES THE MOTHER OF ALL TRIGGER WARNINGS**

There’s been a lot of news about guns in the last week. Last Tuesday I filed this article away for inclusion in today’s regular post; the Guardian reported that Remington was filing for bankruptcy, due at least in part to what they had termed “‘The Trump slump.'” A friendly administration for the gun lobby, and gun owners, has spelled radically decreased sales for gun manufacturers. But then on Wednesday, in a turn-around that would give you whiplash were you researching anything other than gun violence in the US, there was a mass shooting at a school in Florida on Valentine’s day. The cycle begins again.

My Monday – Gun Day series began on the 9th of October, 2017, a week and a day after the largest mass shooting involving a single perpetrator in US history had taken place in Las Vegas (all the modifiers are to remind us that there have been larger massacres in US history, usually racially motivated like that at Wounded Knee, or the Colfax Massacre, which was perpetrated by white Southern Democrats against about 150 black men.)

Since then, across 16 posts (including this one) made on Mondays (US Pacific time), I’ve been sharing my research about guns, and more specifically, the guns used in the 63 incidents in which people were killed on January 1st, 2017. But why? Well, firstly, some backstory that might help to explain.

I began the Monday – Gun Day series with an introduction to my work Gun from 2013/14. To design the work I replicated the AR-15 knock-off (made by Remington) used in the Sandy Hook mass shooting of 2012, into which I incorporated facts and figures I had researched about that days killings, which was, at that time, the second most deadly mass shooting perpetrated by a single person ever in the United States. I was making a series of pieces that used the tools of war to make a statement about humanity’s continuing poor relationship with itself, which I entitled The Escalation Series. My use of this gun, with all of its associations, pointed out an additional fact; the other tools of war I made pieces about were designed for, and were chiefly only accessible to, organised armies. This weapon, designed for and known as as the M-16 in the US armed forces, was and still is far too easily accessible to regular citizens of this country.

I thought after The Escalation series, in which I made jewellery pieces that depicted the following weapons of war:

tank
cannon
arrow
fire arrow
sword
gun
rpg
drone
cartridges with Minié ball bullets
Lapua Magnum shells (sniper rifle shells) from Combat Paper
multiple caltrops

as well as 3 versions of HEAT, a work (pictured below) that shows the molten metal spatter and penetration of a HEAT missile through armoured tank steel, that my association with weapons was done for a while. My focus had made a gentle pivot which saw me making mosaics out of enamelled laser cut steel, with which I could write by turns gentle, piercing and witty messages in binary.

From the series HEAT, (1 of 3) 2015
Strike
9 wall-mounted panels (565mm x 565mm – 22 3/16″ x 22 3/16″)
Stainless steel, vitreous enamel. Image Melissa Cameron.
From the series HEAT, (1 of 3) 2015
Spatter
neckpiece (480mm x 480mcm – 19″ x 19″)
Stainless steel, vitreous enamel, titanium. Image Melissa Cameron.

 

Then two things happened. I had been recently juried into the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize, for which I am to make a work out of found materials, and on the 1st of October I decided to do a stock-take of all the found objects I have lying about in my study, the same day that the current most deadly mass shooting perpetrated in modern times (this seems to be accepted as anything since 1950,) by a single shooter, happened.

Having memorialised a single-person shooting before, I did not want to go down that route again. I’ve read a lot of stories about Sandy Hook, and will continue to do so the rest of my days (it’s reportage on unjustified killings of defenseless white children in a 1st world nation, and thanks to our social/political/class climate, we will find it in the media for the foreseeable future,) and it’s a lot. And I don’t want to have to repeat myself.

I have other things that horrify me just as much as 59 deaths by one person in a day. 59 deaths on any day is a pretty shit day by most of the world’s standards, and I wanted a way to make that point. So I picked a day, New Year’s Day 2017, and got to work.

We know the weapons of the mass shootings because they get so much publicity. (The Guardian already has 3 pages of articles about last week’s shooting.)  [I’m getting cynical, which I usually try to banish from my writings, but it’s almost as if the amount of publicity is inverse to the amount of action that will be taken against the problem, despite the fact that I learned in another Guardian article linked to the Trump Slump article that, “Only 22 to 31% of Americans adults say they personally own a gun.” And what they call “gun super-ownership” is actually concentrated to 3% of the population.] Anyway, digressions aside. We know so little about the other gun deaths that happen in this country because everyone is so inured by the frequency of the killings that everyday gun violence doesn’t make it to the national news. But the weapons used by the mass murderer are studied ad nauseam, so of course we learn about the guns, the shells, the alternate weapons, the victims, the scene, the police department response, the slow and painful moving on.

But what about all the the other shootings? Which guns are responsible there?

Hopefully in just a few years time the gun lobby will face a shakedown that will be compared to that experienced by the tobacco lobby, and their unconscionable actions will be pored over in as much details as the lives of those involved in the Sandy Hook massacre. For right now, I’ve learned that there are great resources for finding out who was killed, when, and where, and more loosely, how. What’s becoming clear is that there is no focus put on the gun responsible, nor its manufacturer. In any other arena, should over 30,000 people get killed by any single type of object in a year, we, the public, would cry out for all the statistics on the make, model, age and condition of the thing responsible.

Thus my research project; for each person listed as killed on the Gun Violence Archive on the 1st of January, 2017, I am finding out what make and model of gun killed them, (or my best estimation thereof,) to draw a picture of what that gun looked like.

And when I have a picture of those weapons, I’m going to make a wearable piece of jewellery that incorporates every f*cking one of them.