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 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 3:28 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT