Shepard Fairey, Duality of Humanity series, 2008
Originally shown at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco, California
From the Press Release: Fairey sees a strong parallel between the Vietnam war and the Iraq war. Fairey says that this show addresses  the “human struggle between good and bad, hope and fear”. One of the show’s central pieces is a child with a gun in his hand and a flower in his hat.
What is our collective obsession with guns? Since the beginning of humankind, conflict has existed and people have found ways to fight each other. First it was with hands and fists, sticks, rocks. Over the decades weapons were made, bow and arrows, sling shots, cannons, swords, knives, bombs, guns. Obviously under the circumstances of hand to hand combat, the gun, with a bullet that leaves a casing and allows for distance between the individual and his or her target, is the most effective. While gun violence has been a problem for many years, the widespread distribution and availability of firearms is reaching a new level which needs to result in action.
This year alone there have been three major gun related attacks involving individuals who chose to use firearms to kill innocent people. In July 2012, a 24 year old man dressed as batman and shot twelve people and injured 58 in a movie theater rampage in Aurora, Colorado. James Holmes was arrested and charged with dozens of counts of murder.  Then, one month later in August 2012, a man named Wade Michael Page, 40-year-old Army veteran, entered a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and killed six people, injuring three. He was shot and killed by the police.
Who can forget the 2011 shooting during a political rally in a supermarket parking lot in Tuscan, Arizona. Gabrielle Giffords, then U.S. Representative, was shot point-blank in the head and survived, while six were killed and eighteen shot in total. Jared Lee Loughner and 22-year-old was charged with the crime but was later found incompetent to stand trial after several medical evaluations. In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and one teacher, also wounding 21 at their high school in Jefferson County, Colorado (Columbine). In 2003 a movie, Elephant, was made by Gus Van Sant, a fictional account of a similar story to that of Columbine.  The film is glossy, and although disturbing is also somehow in active dialogue with the MTV generation and while frightening being based on true events, having used first time actors it also feels “rehearsed” or acted if you will offering an uncanny look into a traumatic event through a poetic viewpoint.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, “How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies)” 2006
Two-life size mannequins, two guns, Dutch wax printed cotton, shoes, and leather riding boots, dimensions variable; plinth:63 x 96 1/2 x 48 inches overall, each figure: 63 x 61 x 48 inches overall
Collection of Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

At a summer camp in Norway in 2011, a lone gunman entered the facilities in a fake police uniform. He showed a fake ID and then proceeded to kill a total of 69 people injuring 110. A 32-year-old Norwegian extremist was arrested and charged with the crime which was the deadliest in Norway since World War II.

Now, on December 14th, a 20-year-old man entered an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut and shot 27 people before also killing himself. Of those who died, 20 of them were children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old, they were in 2nd grade.

I remember as a child having to perform drills in class. We learned stop, drop and roll in case of a fire. Also, since it was the 1980s and nuclear warfare was still an unknown fear/threat, I can remember going through drills of having to hide under our desks, evacuate, etc. These were precautionary measures taken just in case. Now in 2012, children have a new fear to think of, someone literally entering into their school and killing them without any reason. It brings chills to the spine. The recent events in Newton, Connecticut have brought up the concerns once again of gun control, specifically with automatic weapons. President Obama made a statement, even revealing his own humanity by wiping away tears as cameras can be heard frantically clicking in the background. President Obama, having been re-elected to another four years as commencing in  2013 stated (in excerpt):

“…We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years and each time I hear the news, I react not as a president but as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. 

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. ” (continued)

It is the use of the word “politics” that has caught the attention of many who feel that this has to stop. There has to be a way that we can regain control of weaponry that is being used, bought and sold to average citizens who should not have access to such objects that have only one purpose: to kill.

Andy Warhol, Guns, 1981-1982, Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh Founding Collection
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the right to bear arms. It was adopted December 15th, 1791, 221 years ago almost to the day.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
From Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute:

On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right.

Nate Lowman, Bullet hole paintings, 2005
Silkscreen on aluminum, Installation view, NY

Such is the challenge we will now face. Not only as a nation but under the umbrella of globalism as a world. America has a particular fascination for guns. They represent what could be perceived as a masculine symbol for misconstrued power and strength. Guns have always carried a mystique being portrayed in Western films used by the cool cowboy and in early toys such as G.I. Joe in 1964. What child hasn’t played with a water gun? Something needs to change. The fetishistic intrigue needs to come to a halt.

How many more children and other innocent victims have to die before the government realizes that a new type of gun control needs to be reinstated, something that responds and communicates directly with our time, technology and contemporary culture.

In 1791, George Washington was President, there were 14 States in America and New York City traffic regulation created the first one-way street.

“When you hurt another person, you never know how much it pains. Since I was shot, everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about. Like, I don’t know whether I’m alive or whether I died. I wasn’t afraid before. And having been dead once, I shouldn’t feel fear. But I am afraid. I don’t understand why.”

Andy Warhol after he was shot and seriously wounded in 1968 (courtesy of  the Warhol: resources and lessons)

Thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and families of those who have perished due to gun violence and the witnesses who will live with the sounds in their dreams.

More soon.