#iSTANDfor: An End to Gun Violence
By Jessica Mindich
I am a 46-year-old American, white, mom of two teenage sons. I live in an affluent Connecticut suburb. I am a lawyer turned jewelry designer. And prior to creating the Caliber Collection, in 2012, I didn’t know anything about the insidious problem of illegal gun violence in America.
5 ½ years later, I am as comfortable at gang task force meetings, maximum security correctional facilities, in ballistics labs and urban community centers receiving illicit and unwanted guns, as I once was at fancy luncheons and thrice weekly yoga sessions.
The Caliber Collection began 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. Our 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. We donate 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 1,500 illegal guns off the streets and have raised over $135,000 for police departments in Newark, Hartford, the San Francisco Bay Area, Detroit and Miami from the sale of Caliber products to customers in over 87 countries.
I work with cities with some of the highest homicide rates in the country. My work has made me painfully aware that despite all the recent press about high profile school shootings they account for less than 2% of annual gun deaths. Aware that there is a cancer ripping through our inner cities and killing a disproportionate number of black men. In fact, roughly 50% of of American gun death victims are black men, yet, African Americans account for only 6% of the American population.
Since starting the Caliber Collection, I’ve been trying to understand the ‘why’ of gun violence through my work and have been educated by men and women who are leaders on the front lines in these communities.
There are incredibly innovative and effective approaches to being used to combat inner-city violence and strengthen community bonds and the relationship with law enforcement. However, it is not enough. The stratospheric rates of gun violence on these streets every weekend are the result of the erosion of dreams and options for the families living in these cities due to poverty, racism, segregation and inequity over decades. It is time for change.