Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

One way to fight guns

By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
April 18, 2013 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
The toll gun violence is taking on young people was the inspiration for GunShowGallery.com. More than 70 artists have submitted more than 100 poster designs against gun violence, including this piece titled "A Farewell to Arms" by Alyssa Winans. The toll gun violence is taking on young people was the inspiration for GunShowGallery.com. More than 70 artists have submitted more than 100 poster designs against gun violence, including this piece titled "A Farewell to Arms" by Alyssa Winans.
HIDE CAPTION
Posters against gun violence
Posters against gun violence
Posters against gun violence
Posters against gun violence
Posters against gun violence
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Van Jones: Guns kill twice as many kids as cancer in America
  • Jones: Young people created posters to raise awareness and fight gun violence
  • He says GunShowGallery.com posters show generation that wants to change world
  • Jones: Can their effort make a dent in a debate dominated by the NRA's army of lobbyists?

Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Barack Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy. Follow him on Twitter: @VanJones68.

(CNN) -- Richard Biennestin was only 20 years old when he was shot and killed on April 13. Jessie Leon Jordan was 23. Sione Fakatoufifita was 19. Titania Mitchell was only 13. Of the nearly two dozen people reported killed that day, about half were under age 30.

Sadly, this tally is not rare.

According to the Children's Defense Fund, guns kill twice as many kids as cancer while Congress remains stalemated. A bill to pass gun reforms failed in the Senate on Wednesday. As CNN has reported, 13 young people between ages 10 and 24 are the victims of homicide every single day. Firearms account for 80% of those deaths.

Van Jones
Van Jones

The toll gun violence is taking on young people was the inspiration for GunShowGallery.com, a collaboration between the Creative Action Network and my organization, Rebuild the Dream. More than 70 artists have submitted 111 poster designs against gun violence. Most of these artists are in their 20s.

You do not have to agree with the message of each individual poster. Collectively, they represent the diverse voices of a generation desperate to stop the violence devastating its members. In poll after poll, large numbers of Americans age 18-30 support gun reform measures.

It is worth listening to what the young people who submitted these posters are trying to say.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Alyssa Winans, a 23-year-old from Providence, Rhode Island, submitted "A Farewell to Arms." She says people are desensitized to the violence. "It is simply how it is, how it has always been. This is what guns are like." She grew up outside Chicago and recalls one of her older sisters coming home from school in the city with terrifying news: "My classmate got shot and they're dead." It left a lasting impression on her.

J.D. Reeves, 25, was around guns while growing up in rural Oklahoma. Guns were for hunting. They were not something bad or dangerous, simply a part of life. But a personal experience last spring led to his piece, "End Gun Culture in America." Reeves and his wife were considering going to watch the Oklahoma Thunder NBA playoffs game in Oklahoma City, but decided against it at the last minute.

That night, gunfire broke out near the arena. Eight people were wounded. "I always heard about shootings in cities but never felt a connection because I live in the country," Reeves says. "That made it real. We could have been there. I have friends who were there. They have video of it on their phones."

Ryan Keller, from Iowa, sent in a piece called "Dissolve the Targets." Though he supports restrictions on guns, he has a big problem with violence in the media, especially the video game industry. Young people, he says, "need to see that violence in general is absolutely horrific. They need to see humans as humans, not something you can kill and get 100 points."

Juana Medina lives in Washington, but grew up in war-torn Colombia. She recalls seeing people threatened and killed. Her aunt and uncle met while taking cover under a table at a restaurant during a gunfight. Her poster, "Less Fear, More Kindness," aims to confront the culture of fear she saw in Colombia and sees today in cities around America.

Can their posters make a dent in a debate dominated by the NRA's army of lobbyists?

Gun control amendment fails in Senate
Obama angry about gun bill failure
Obama: Gun lobby 'willfully lied'

They think so. "We live in a culture of short attention spans and high consumption," Medina says. "As artists we create striking images that even if you see for only two or three seconds can change minds."

Max Slavkin co-founded the Creative Action Network with longtime friend Aaron Perry-Zucker. After Newtown, artists started asking what they could do to help. "Older generations accept that this is how the game is played, the need to wait for Congress, that leaders can't go too far," Slavkin says. "But younger people have seen failure after failure -- on the financial crisis, the environment and guns. We're too fired up to wait or sign petitions that we just haven't seen working."

Perry-Zucker, the creator of 2008's Design for Obama, believes that art and culture can simulate the kind of personal experience that gets people involved. "Seeing one of these posters forces you to take a stance," he notes. "You can't help but decide if you agree, or if you see it differently. And now you are more involved." Or, as Allyssa Winans puts it, artists can pose a simple question: "What if it wasn't like this?"

J.D. Reeves recalls a story in an Oklahoma paper about a known felon buying a firearm at a gun show while the local police stood by, helpless. "If you're smart with guns and people are around guns they aren't necessarily bad. But seeing this story you realize something has to change for our safety as Americans."

Idealistic, yet practical. Always experimenting with new ideas. Determined to change the world. I cannot wait for the best of this next generation to take over.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Van Jones.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT