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
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT