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This DA’s office has a far more peaceful use for AR-15s

This DA’s office has a far more peaceful use for AR-15s
[Photo: District Attorney’s Office/Alameda County]

We’re awash in gun violence, and no matter where you come down in the debate over what to do about it, it’s hard to feel good about what firearms represent in America today.

But Nancy O’Malley, the district attorney in Alameda County, California–home to Oakland, Berkeley, and several other towns just across the bay from San Francisco–has an idea. Over the last 30 years, the county has collected more than a thousand guns as evidence in felony trials. Now, it has commissioned local artists to turn more than 700 of those fully dissembled and inoperable weapons into art.

With mass shootings like the one in Florida yesterday happening so frequently, it’s refreshing to hear about a nonviolent use of guns, one that turns the entire narrative about them on its head, and unlike some media representations of firearms, chooses not to celebrate their often destructive role in society.

“It’s absolutely not celebrating guns, it’s the opposite,” says Teresa Drenick, an assistant Alameda County district attorney. “It’s taking these weapons that have caused so much pain and suffering and destroying them. And from their destruction, their complete disassembly, creating something that is hopeful…Whatever imagery comes out of them will signify peace and community and the end of violence.”

But as one of the artists involved put it, the genesis of the effort, which had been in the works for months, was unrelated to the Florida tragedy. Unfortunately, he said, the regularity of mass shootings in America made it “statistically likely” to be announced on the same day as one.

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