I started painting The Gun Show three years ago. What started out as mere curiosity, quickly became my cause. I began with guns and adults, and went on to look at guns and children, religion, racism, militias, the police, video games, movies, mental health, the military, the NRA, the gun industry, and a few more.
Every time I thought I was finished, something new showed up. How about guns and selfies? Fifty people a year now die from self-inflicted gunshot wounds while taking a selfie. With the proliferation of guns in our communities and a self-absorbed culture, this is guaranteed to be an up-and-coming area.
There are now 111 paintings. All images come directly from Google and all but one are exactly as I found them.
And this is what I found: People from all walks of life — young, old, rich and poor — now feel the need to carry a gun on their person. And with all those supposedly “normal” people running around with guns, I am now more concerned than ever for my safety when in public.
Our children are dying at the rate of eight a day from gunshot wounds and 15,000 a year go to emergency rooms. And the Internet is awash with “pretty” rifles, designed to cater to their tastes. One rifle, called the Savage Rascal, can be bought in groups of four, with all the paraphernalia, so that your child can form her own firing club with her girlfriends. Why is that even legal?
Many churches now include guns as part of their culture. Some even offer raffles for guns after their sermons. And there is even a Christian gun. It’s called The Crusader, an AR-15 with a Byzantine cross on the side, with the engraved Bible verse “Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands to war, my fingers to battle.”1 The gun is so popular that there is a four- to five-week waiting period to get one. Imagine Jesus with a gun. How did they stray so far from his teachings?
As for guns and racism, it is clear that nothing really has changed in our country, and that conditions for black people are worse now than ever before. People of color are dying at the hands of the police in record numbers — about 350 this year alone (although more non-Hispanic whites have been killed by police).2 Racism is alive and well in this country. Last year in Ferguson, when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, a group of black school children all said, “If I grow up,” not “when.” When do we get it that black lives matter?
I looked at our police force and could not help but bemoan the fact that our police have changed. They have been militarized to a large extent, and now act more like soldiers who see us as the enemy, rather than those they are supposed to protect. The proposed north Seattle Police Precinct, which will cost the taxpayers $160 million to construct, will include a bullet-, bomb-, and soundproof firing range, deep underground, which will allow our police to train with assault weapons and tanks. Instead of solving the many economic problems now facing our cities, we are offered a militarized response.
There are more than 800 paramilitary groups in this country, well trained in weaponry, that love playing soldier (and are preparing to protect us should a hurricane or catastrophe cause massive looting and crime). Doesn’t that make you feel safer? They also provide many services for our military. The infamous Blackwater security contractor, now owned by Monsanto, has our military as its biggest client. They enter war zones, act as security for our generals, go on missions and even give orders to our soldiers, and they are only accountable to their owners. They also train our soldiers in advanced weaponry, for a price of course.
I looked at video games, so many specifically designed by the military and Hollywood, their sidekick from the very beginning, now geared to training the young to be good drone operators with no concern for human life. There’s big money in the military for these skills.
As for movies, from the very beginning, the gun industry, with the help of Hollywood, has made us think that guns have always been a part of our culture. All those shoot ’em up cowboy movies were just big fat lies. They were merely a marketing tool. And it worked. Most people think that it has always been like this.
War movies are a direct response to the military’s need for human fodder. They will always supply Hollywood with weaponry and expertise for their movies. Even a war movie that sees us in a bad light does not concern the military. It’s all the shooting and killing that’s important. In fact, the military will often place recruiting stations outside the theaters. Young men, filled with video games and testosterone, and with little hope for the future, leave the theater and sign right up.
In the beginning, Americans needed but did not want guns. They were looked upon merely as a tool. The gun industry worked diligently to convince us to buy them. The archives of Winchester rifles, one of the first gun companies, clearly show how they used propaganda and hard-selling tactics to do it.
At first they were trying to entice those who needed, but didn’t want guns, but soon there was an element that seemed to want but not need them. This at first confused Winchester and they called them gun crankers. But it didn’t take Winchester very long to realize that that was their best market, and they’ve been raking the money in ever since.
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