In this most unpredictable of political seasons, gun safety has re-emerged as a major issue. Lawmakers have long been reluctant to debate gun laws on both the state and federal levels, but recent violence and inflammatory political rhetoric have brought the second amendment back to the forefront. So the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center’s main exhibition this summer is “Up in Arms: Taking Stock of Guns,” is surprisingly timely.
Museum exhibits are scheduled far in advance, so it’s coincidence that this summer the museum is featuring nine artists portraying guns in various ways. Among the images are Madeline Fan’s enormous watercolor; Susan Graham’s reproductions, in porcelain threads, of the guns in her father’s collection; and Linda Bond’s precise graphite drawings of the guns used at Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, and Charleston. The images are powerful, and the narratives that accompany them are thought-provoking.
Kyle Cassidy traveled the country, photographing gun owners in their homes and asking his subjects why they own guns. He found that some admire guns as machinery; a few own them for sentimental reasons; some shoot for sport; and many say they own them to protect themselves.
In spite of studies showing that guns in the home increase, rather than decrease, the danger to homeowners, some individuals simply don’t trust other people. One man says, “At some point words are not going to be enough when people are kicking down your door to pull you out of your house because you’re Jewish, or black or gay.”
Another says, “When I’m angry, angry at the world I find relief in dropping a clip into the air. And, at the same time, if the world threatens me or those I love, I find relief in the protection it gives me.” A woman says, “Being a survivor of sexual assault, I find comfort in being able to take back the strength that was stolen from me by force.”
Looking at the portrayal of people’s visceral mistrust of others , I wonder how that mistrust might affect the vote in November. Many gun-owners simply don’t trust Hillary Clinton when she says she has no intention of taking away their guns, while other voters do trust Clinton despite the lost email saga. And some trust Donald Trump, no matter what he says.
Perhaps trust and mistrust, rather than policy positions, will determine who will be President for the next four years.