Someone dies from gun violence every 16 minutes in America.
YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT is a series of frank interviews with passionate men and women who are leaders, activists and influencers on the subject of gun violence in America. 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 the cause. Although our backgrounds, experiences and the challenges we face in our work are as complex as the causes and the solutions to this epidemic, all have shown that there is more that can be done to end this senseless loss of human life.
I am proud to introduce you to each of them and excited to share their insights into how all of us can be a part of the solution to Raise The Caliber of our communities.
- 2016 Grammy Amplifier Country Artist Winner
- Season 2 of The Voice (Team Blake)
- Author #1 Best Seller @TheySellMusic
- Spokesperson, Remington Arms
- Blessed Singer/Risk Taker
Where do you live? Nashville, TN
What quote do you live by? "Success is achieved when you are ignorant to the fact that failure is an option"
What are you most proud of about your work/life?
Without a doubt, necessity has been my biggest teacher. And that has taught me to relentlessly recognize opportunity, learning that my "restrictions" in life are self-imposed and born only out of fear. Getting to that place is what I am most proud of, because it's in that state of living that I do my best work. So, lately, it's not one moment I am most proud of, it's a bunch of little moments tied together that have made me so proud to be on the road I'm on.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
In the business of monetizing talent there seems to be a lot of people trying to force a formula nowadays when a formula doesn't work. Every artist is completely different with different ingredients to bring to the recipe, so you can't try to bake them all the same way. Music sells everything except music. And swallowing that is difficult, but also presents a load of opportunity for those who can learn to recognize it and keep moving. Staying creative, and knowing WHO YOU ARE is the only thing you need to have plugged into your GPS because the path to get to where you're going will continue to change. The best view always comes after the hardest climb so the only way to get there is just as simple as it is difficult.
Why do you think we have such a problem with gun violence in America?
As a country artist, firearms are part of our culture that's been around for decades, a symbol of defending your family & freedom since the days of our ancestors. Young boys had guns tossed in their hands to either fight wars or work the land & feed their families. From my perspective it is astounding how much violence & misuse there is of guns that are such a respected part of my heritage.
Although the difference between the use of firearms where my friends and I will head out into the woods and shoot sporting clays, hold competitions and hunt every now and then, versus using them for violence & instilling fear, is cultural, I can't imagine what it is like to grow up in fear. For kids growing up in the streets of Detroit or Newark, where cliques & gangs are the options you are given to look out for yourself they feel the need to protect themselves with firearms. They show their strength through intimidation by making other people weaker.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about why we have such a problem with gun violence in America?
This is a great question. I believe the biggest misconception is that it is a "gun issue" rather than a "people issue". I realize this is a loaded statement that has been quite misused to blanket the argument. But I do agree with it in it's intention that ultimately, the responsibility comes back on us as people to not misuse what we have the opportunity to. I don't care if it's a car, a 747, a child, etc. When you put others lives in danger by putting your own agenda above respect for mankind, you are responsible. No matter the manner you choose.
Do you think there a law that the government could enact that would really make a difference in reducing gun violence and building safe communities?
Are there simple regulations that will help such as background checks & education classes before purchasing a gun? Yes, and frankly, I think that makes us all feel safer! I wouldn't want some of my best friends to have a gun in their hand "just because they can" if they don't know what they are doing! But, do I believe laws & regulations will help minimize crime & violence? No. Those who intend to hurt people & commit crime will always find a way. That issue and it's solution lies in personal responsibility & moral fortitude. 99% of us don't feel a need to pick up a gun & shoot people. The percentage who do? That's something deeper than a "law" can fix. If they don't care about ending innocent human life, they certainly don't care about a law.
What are three things the average American citizen can do to "Raise The Caliber" of their community?
1. If you are going to own a gun (or five), know what you are doing. Know how to operate it for God's sake & have reverence for it the same way you do anything else that can have dangerous repercussions if it's not properly used.
2. If you don't want to own one, cool. Respect the rights of those who do choose to own a gun. I don't collect swords or own a Vespa just because I have the right to. Before you perpetuate stigma of any issue, condemn someone for what they believe or do, evaluate yourself please. We are all Americans. All of us have the right to think what we want to think and that is what has made our nation great & different than many others. We have always fought for that right. We need to find a way to reasonably respect each other & find compromise that acknowledges that.
3. If you see the beginning signs of violence, be a friend, do what you can reasonably do to help those in trouble. We are one world, called to walk together, and each person has the ability to fuel greatness or fuel fear. The amount of effort is the same, but the outcomes are drastically different.
Is there a must read book or article on this topic that has educated and inspired you?
On gun violence in particular, no there is not one article or book that has inspired me. However, the combination of my cultural roots, my involvement in promoting firearm education with Remington Arms, & my support & promotion of organizations addressing the problems of gun violence in America (such as the Caliber Collection), has taught me a tremendous amount about the issue. My humble opinions here are based on my simple observance of the issue; I am proud and honored to join in the fight to prevent senseless loss of life due to the misuse of firearms and also represent my right to enjoy the hobby & the sport.
About the Author:
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 1,000 illegal guns off the streets and have raised over $100,000 for police departments in Newark, Hartford, the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit from the sale of Caliber products to customers in over 85 countries.
From the success of the Caliber Collection, Jessica created The Caliber Foundation, which offers support to victims, families and communities who have been affected 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 to end illegal gun violence. Proceeds from partnerships under Raise The Caliber are donated to the Caliber Foundation.
Jessica is also a guest editor for the Huffington Post on Crime and a frequent contributor to www.MariaShriver.com