Studio Art Major Hosts Event on National Mall for Senior Thesis

by Rachel Gallagher

       On Saturday, March 28th a section of the Nation Mall across from the National Gallery of Art hosted “91 of Us,” an event meant to humanize the statistics of gun violence in the United States. The event is a part of studio art major Caileigh Nerney’s senior thesis that focuses on the 91 Americans killed with a gun each day.
       The event ran from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and included infographics with statistics on gun violence, tables hosting various groups which advocate for gun safety, and 91 empty chairs representing the 91 people who statistically die in the United States every day due to gun violence in some form.
Nerney’s inspiration for her thesis came from a podcast she heard over the summer.
        “[There was] a whole feature on gun violence in the U.S. It’s a lot more complex than what is usually put out there,” said Nerney. “In the media it’s usually mass shootings and the only way to address it is gun control. There are a lot of things that go into it like domestic violence and suicide, and there’s a lot of ways to address it, so I wanted to communicate that.”
         The infographics Nerney created displayed a summary of gun violence statistics she found through her research, particularly in relation to suicide, domestic violence, and accidental shootings. The statistics were organized by a variety of criteria, including the fatality rates, demographics most affected by each category of gun-related violence, and statistics about how often a person dies from gun violence each day.
      For example, 85-91% of all suicide attempts carried out with a gun are fatal, compared to the 5% fatality rate of other forms of attempted suicide. 8% of accidental shooting deaths are the result of children under the age of six using firearms. Over half of women killed with a firearm are killed by partners or family members; in fact, domestic violence outnumbers terrorism and mass shootings as the highest gun-related killer of American women.
       Groups providing additional information on preventing gun violence at the event included the Metropolitan Police Department, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, DC Safe, Generation Progress, and Collaborative Solutions for Communities. The representative from the Metropolitan Police Department said the biggest thing in preventing gun violence is to “take responsibility for your unique situation.” He continued that there is no one answer to ensuring gun safety, it all depends on the individual situation. The presence of children in the home, where the gun is kept, etc. are all factors to carefully consider when it comes to responsible gun ownership.
        “I think there are a lot of things [people can do]—which is kind of the point of this—that people just don’t know about,” said Nerney when asked what college students can do to prevent gun violence. “The most amount of people who die from gun violence die from committing suicide. On one hand it’s knowing the signs of suicide, recognizing them in your friends or family or people you care about. And they’ve said if you remove [the gun] from the home temporarily—because usually people are only in that crisis state for a short amount of time—you can save lives.”
        Nerney said that the same goes for recognizing domestic violence, removing a gun from the situation if there is one in the home, and even getting law enforcement involved. Lastly, Nerney said if you own a gun knowing how to store it and keeping it away from kids are major factors to consider.
The hashtag “#91ofUs” is a social media initiative meant to further raise awareness of gun violence in the U.S. and to gain the attention of members of Congress. “91 of Us” has pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter which have more information on gun violence and how to get involved in the conversation.

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