Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

One way to fight guns

By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
updated 5:37 AM EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
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
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 10:11 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT