Robert Longo (b. 1953), Death Star, 1993; 18,000 brass and copper bullets; steel armature, diameter of sphere: 36 inches; steel armature: 98 x 120 inches; Anonymous gift, 2016
On View Friday, July 13–Sunday, October 28, 2018
Throughout history, humans have killed each other.
We mark time by the names of wars and enemies (the War of 1812, for example, and the French and Indian War) or by scale (World War I and II). The 1784 poem by Robert Burns, Man was Made to Morn: A Dirge, includes the line, “Man’s inhumanity to man,” to draw attention to murder as a one of many methods of dying. The poem considers the ways people die—and, for those that live long enough, how we come to understand them. And even in Burns’s time, there was a school shooting in Greencastle, PA. While part of the larger conflict of the French and Indian War, it was no less consequential when a teacher and ten students were killed [i].
Given human beings’ propensity to innovate as well as to kill, we have become, sadly, adept at it. So much so that a single person can kill dozens of people with some planning and the “right” weaponry.
As predictable are the subsequent cries of “Arm everyone!” and “Disarm everyone!” For all of our inventiveness, we are astonishingly ineffectual at looking for meaning and reason beyond basic, instinctive reactions to these shocking realities. We quickly label scapegoats and look to the gun industry to end its profit-driven desire to fuel the fire.
Consider these statistics, compiled by Everytown for Gun Safety[ii]:
- On average, there are 13,000 homicides a year in the US
- For every person killed with guns, two more are injured
- In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by intimate partners in the US
- When a gun is present in a situation of domestic violence, it increases the risk that the woman will be killed fivefold
Everytown for Gun Safety’s research also supports the following[hf1] :
Black Americans make up 14% of the US population but are victims of more than half of all gun homicides. “Stand Your Ground” statutes—in which people can justify violence as self-defense or the defense of others—are an example of seemingly reasonable ideas gone bad in practice. They have dramatically expanded the circumstances in which people are permitted to use deadly force and have created legal hurdles that make it more difficult for law enforcement to hold shooters accountable. The research also shows that states with “Stand Your Ground” laws have, on average, experienced a 53% increase in homicides deemed justifiable in the years following passage of the law, compared with a 5% decrease in states without “Stand Your Ground” statutes during the same period—an increase that’s been disproportionately borne by the black community.
In the US alone, more than 420 people have been killed in mass shootings[iii] since 2008 and in 2016, 38,658 people were killed by guns—not including the many wars and violent acts that rage around the world at any given moment in time.[iv]
In the US and here in Western New York, we must take shared responsibility for what’s happening in our schools and our worksites, in our homes and in our houses of worship, on our streets and in our prisons, among our civilians and police, among young and old—and, in particular, against people of color.
[i] Herald, Z. G., & Record Herald. (n.d.). July 1764 Enoch Brown schoolhouse massacre commemorated. Retrieved from http://www.therecordherald.com/article/20140728/news/140729870
[ii] Everytown for Gun Safety, www. https://everytown.org
[iii] Wilson, C. (2017, October 02). Mass Shootings in the US: See 35 Years in One Chart. Retrieved from http://time.com/4965022/deadliest-mass-shooting-us-history/
[iv] Safety Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://injuryfacts.nsc.org/home-and-community/safety-topics/firearms/data-details/?gclid=CjwKCAjwrqnYBRB-EiwAthnBFrvQ9-GJ7nDFe5uiM2BbDjTdrwY4tB6fuV1Cv0eXuGRy0UGd0aXvEhoCK6AQAvD_BwE