Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guns Making Music

Last October I wrote about an effort in Washington State to reduce gun violence by requiring background checks for most firearm purchases and transfers, including gun show and online sales. Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility recently announced they’d gained enough signatures for Initiative Measure 594 to be considered by the legislature.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence knows how helpful gun laws can be to prevent the loss of lives caused by gun violence. The non-profit organization, founded by attorneys in 1993 in the aftermath of an assault weapon rampage at a law firm at in San Francisco, works in support of gun violence prevention and the promotion of smart gun laws. They’d agree that I-594 is a step in the right direction.

Clearly, every step is needed.

  •     The 2/12/14 issue of The Guardian reports that since the Sandy Hook massacre in Dec. 2012, there have been 28 deaths in 44 US school shootings.
  •         A new study reported jointly by Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns notes that in the first six weeks of 2014 there were shootings in 13 schools.
  •          Joe Nocera posts even more grim statistics about violence involving guns in his regular NY Times blog, Gun Report.  The “Presidents’ Day Edition” cites dozens of shootings over the 3-day holiday.

Recently I learned from a friend about another response to the devastation of gun violence.

Mexico City artist Pedro Reyes first explored reimagining weapons in his 2008 project, Palas por Pistolas. In that effort, Reyes melted the1527 guns collected by the Mexican city of Cualiacan as part of a campaign to curb shootings and made them into the same number of shovels. The shovels, in turn, were used to plant 1527 trees. A few years later, Reyes created Imagine, a set of 50 electric guitars, violins, flutes and percussion instruments fabricated out of destroyed revolvers, shotguns, and machine-guns—6700 of them—seized in Ciudad Juarez.

The results of Reyes’s latest transformations are part of an exhibition called Disarm currently at the University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum. Reyes talked about the project in a recent NPR interview and of his belief that “…art should address social issues like gun violence, even if the issue is difficult or controversial.” This series was made in collaboration with a team of musicians and Cocolab, a media studio in Mexico City. These new pieces can be programmed and operated via computer, making them capable of performing music concerts with compositions prepared beforehand.

While President Obama spoke about the need for gun control in his State of the Union address last month, a 20-year-old man was shot in the leg during an argument over a gambling debt following an intramural basketball game at Tennessee State University.

“Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day,” Obama said in his address and pledged,  “… to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.

Pedro Reyes is standing up in his own way for the lives stolen by gun violence. Watch him at work.


  1. Iris, this is wonderful. Once I'm home and no longer blogging on a travel theme, I'm going to try my hand at re blogging this. Never done that before, but this seems like a great place to start.

  2. It IS an amazing story, isn’t it? I’ve watched a couple of videos about Pedro Reyes and am moved by his (and a bunch of other people on his team) work. A modern variation on weapons into ploughshares. I’ve never re-blogged either, so let me know how it works.