Guns: Changing Times Call for Changing Laws -Interview with Girl Rising Founder

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT is a series of frank interviews with passionate men and women who are leaders, activists and influencers. Some have been my teachers, champions and support system on this very complicated and emotional journey and some I have admired from afar for their bravery, audacity and indomitable commitment to their work.  Although our backgrounds, experiences and the challenges we face in our work are as complex as the causes and the solutions to the gun violence epidemic, all believe that there is more that can be done to end this senseless loss of human life. 

Occupation/Title: Chairman, Nantucket Project Academy; Founder, Girl Rising

Age: 46

Race/Nationality: White/USA + UK

Where do you live? Suburbs of NYC

What quote do you live by? Just do it.

What are you most proud of about your work/life:

In my work life, I’m proudest of reaching hundreds of millions of people around the world with Girl Rising, a film that tells the inspiring story of how educating adolescent girls can transform societies and seeing first-hand how powerful stories can change behavior.

In my home life, I am grateful to have a loving family.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

Shifting social norms can take decades to achieve and is hard to measure, so for me, the biggest challenge is persuading funders that investing in long-term behavior change, through the power of storytelling, is a smart way to achieve their goals.

Why do you think we have such a problem with gun violence in America?

I believe gun violence begins with having ready and immediate access to guns. And it’s not just what I believe, it’s what data shows: in countries where guns are regulated, statistics related to gun violence are significantly better.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about why we have such a problem with gun violence in America?

The biggest misconception is the assumption that because our founding fathers included gun ownership in the constitution, the ‘right to bear arms’ is inalienable forever. Ideas have a ‘time’ and with changing times and changing understanding, even documents like the Constitution need to be amended to reflect the needs of the time. When the constitution was written, survival on the frontier depended on the ability to hunt and defend from harm and guns were important to that basic survival. We no longer live in this kind of environment and so the time has come to change the rules. Just as the time had not come for women to vote, and black Americans were slaves, changing times call for changing laws.

Do you think there a law that the government could enact that would make a difference in reducing gun violence and building safe communities?

Yes, of course. Again, look around the world at places like Australia and the United Kingdom. It is obvious that changing the laws around gun-ownership, overtime, would dramatically reduce gun violence. It’s not even a question. There is overwhelming data to prove it.

What are three things the average American citizen can do to “Raise The Caliber” of their community?

  • Don’t keep guns in their homes, and if they do, take a gun safety class, teach any children who share their house about the dangers of guns and keep the gun locked in a safe outside of the home
  • Support laws that will regulate the sale and distribution of guns. This does not mean targeting vulnerable populations, like the mentally ill, with gun laws. Rather, support comprehensive, data-driven gun legislation that will end the free flow of guns across the country.
  • Raise children who understand the difference between using guns for sport (hunting) and using guns for killing other humans. The former is defensible. The latter is not.

Is there a book or article on this topic that has educated and inspired you?

Unfortunately, I spent much of my news career covering school shootings, homicides and suicides. The through line is ready access to fire-arms. I have lived through these cycles of unimaginable violence and tragedy, followed by hand-wringing and blind justification of the Second Amendment. The data is so clear: people with guns kill themselves and other people at a rate that is impossible with a knife, or poison, or other tools of harm. Take guns away and the body count shrinks dramatically.

About the Editor:  Jessica Mindich began the Caliber Collection® in January 2012 as a collaboration with the Mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker, as a way to turn illegal and unwanted guns from our cities’ streets into jewelry.  Their vision was to create a virtuous cycle by funding gun buyback and amnesty programs from the proceeds of the sales from the Caliber Collection.  The jewelry is made with the serial numbers from illegal guns and the metal from shell casings. The Caliber Collection donates 20% of the net proceeds to fund voluntary gun buyback and amnesty programs in some of the toughest cities in America. To date, they have taken over 2,500 illegal guns off the streets and have raised over $165,000 for police departments in Newark, Hartford, the San Francisco Bay Area, Miami and Detroit from the sale of Caliber products to customers in over 87 countries. 

From the success of the Caliber Collection, Jessica created The Caliber Foundation, which offers support to victims, families and communities devastated by illegal gun violence.  The Caliber Foundation is the proud recipient of grants from MTV, Shepard Fairey/Obey Giant and The Serena Williams Foundation. Jessica is also the founder of the Raise The Caliber® initiative, a National advocacy campaign.  Proceeds from partnerships under Raise The Caliber are donated to the Caliber Foundation.

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