In 2013, artist Australian still life artist, Sonia Rentsch, created Harm Less as a commentary on the symbolic nature the gun has taken in our world.
Her work is timeless. But of course, that’s the problem.
It is timeless because our gun culture is ever-growing and our tragedies, sadly redundant redundant. The “gun debate” has begun again. It’s something that seems to have become as regular an event as Groundhog’s Day. Coming from Australia, Sonia Rentsch knows a thing or two about this debate. In 1996, Australia experienced its own mass shooting tragedy, the Port Arthur Massacre. 35 people were slain, another 23 wounded in the event that would spark massive changes in Australian gun laws and gun culture. This, in turn, sparked what was to become one of the most dramatic falls in gun violence in history. There has been considerable commentary that we need to enact similarly restrictive laws. The Australian Foreign Minister suggested this after the Las Vegas shooting, but the Australian Ambassador recently rescinded the sentiment after the Stoneman Douglas shooting, saying “Our gun laws won’t work in America.” He argues that our gun culture is far more deep-rooted and powerful that it ever was in his country.
Maybe he’s right.
We are a consumer-driven economy. But not just our economy. Our consumerism drives our laws and our culture. We have the power to take control of these things, in most cases..
not in this one.
Outside of sport and hunting, the gun industry is driven by two powers: fear & hate. Emotions, easily manipulated, they become like drugs that we are fed on an IV drip. Like the nicotine in a cigarette. In fact, The gun and cigarette industries have much in common. Even when all of the truths about cigarettes came out, we continued to smoke them at ignorant rates. Because this product was being manipulated by an outside variable, we needed our government to step in.
This debate needs to be a conversation, and it needs to be one that happens now. It is going to require our government to step in.
It is one that continuously gets highjacked by absolutists of both sides. Those who want to get rid of all things, and those who refuse to lose anything. We argue, we debate, we tire, we resolve to nothing. This should be an absolutists’ issue; it cannot be. Most of us can agree that we need to take steps to keep these weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill and children. Moreover, we should ALL be in agreement that they need to be kept out of the hands of mentally ill children.
If these are areas we ALL can agree on, then this is where the conversation needs to begin.
Both sides of every argument are going to need to learn the art of compromise if we are to inch forth into a better world. Change does not happen overnight. It is a long, arduous process. But, as Lawrence of Arabia said, “Big things have small beginnings.”