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Rosalea Barker: To me, all guns are pink.

To me, all guns are pink.

by Rosalea Barker
July 22, 2012

If I were the President of the United States, I would issue an Executive Order that all firearms must be painted pink. Perhaps you laughed when you read that, or thought that I was joking. Good, because such a reaction is just exactly why the Pink Gun Solution might just work. It pits one stereotype—guns equal masculinity equals strength—against another—pink equals femininity equals weakness.

Both stereotypes are patently absurd. The vast majority of men do not resolve the problems in their life by using a firearm. The vast majority of women are not weak. Some men don’t even own a gun; some women do. Requiring firearms to be painted pink wouldn’t interfere with anyone’s right in the US to own a gun.

It’s also difficult to see how an argument about the unconstitutionality of requiring firearm manufacturers, sellers, and current owners to paint their weapons a particular color could stand up in a court of law. This is a matter of public safety, and there are countless items we see every day that are required to be a particular color for public safety reasons: green, amber, and red traffic lights; orange hazard lights on motor vehicles; yellow traffic signs warning of pedestrian crossings and nearby schools, to name but a few.

I was prompted to “think pink” by a comment made at a recent event in Oakland chaired by Scott Johnson, the Oakland Tribune's Violence Reporting Fellow. His blog, Oakland Effect, is here. The panel discussion focused on how guns make their way into Oakland, hurdles authorities face stemming the tide of firearms into the city, and what Oaklanders are doing to help address the impacts of gun violence. One of the panelists, Trib reporter Cecily Burt touched on what she had discovered in her reporting for an article that had been published online the previous day.

The other panelists were Sgt. Nishani Joshi from the OPD’s Gangs/Gun Intelligence Task Force, the Rev. Harry Williams, who is helping organize a 24-hour ceasefire in Oakland on August 11th called “Save-A-Life Saturday”, and Juliet Leftwich, Legal Director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization based in San Francisco.

However, it is not the comments of the panelists that stuck with me so much as those of some of the audience members who approached the floor microphone. One elderly community activist asked if anyone in the audience had actually held a gun. “They’re heavy,” she said. “Once a young person picks up a gun, why would they put them down? It’s a powerful feeling.”

The first speaker, a Rev. Brown—who was all ready to take the microphone as soon as the call for audience participation was about to made–said the National Guard should be brought in. Which earned him the audience’s applause. Another speaker, an elderly man who had been threatened at gunpoint by someone trying to rob him, asked “Why do people need guns? People don’t need guns.”

He was laughed at.

Think about those two reactions. The people in this audience were folks concerned about the toll that is being taken—particularly in terms of young lives—by gun violence in Oakland. They were people who actively try to get programs in place to prevent it. Yet they cheered for the presence of yet more firearms in the street in the form of the National Guard, and laughed at the person who asked why people need guns in the first place.

You can lay the blame for the prevalence of gun-related violence on the ready availability of weaponry; or on the violence in television shows, in movies, and in video games; or on the lack of proper parenting, lack of jobs, lack of after school programs to keep kids off the streets, but the fact remains that, in the USA, the idea that people don’t need guns is laughable, and the idea that gun violence can be stemmed by adding more guns into the mix is applauded.

So. Perhaps the place to make the difference is the guns themselves. Paint them pink, and then let’s see who thinks guns impart power and cannot put them down.



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