Guns drive Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker “insane” (he uses that word a lot when talking about guns). It’s not guns precicely that drive him nuts, nor responsible gun-owners. It’s the reckless disregard that too many Americans, and most certainly, too many GOP politicians, have towards gun ownership.
Booker’s doing everything he can to press for gun control, even offering up reasonable solutions, which is more that the NRA’s lapdog GOP is doing. And now he’s offering a unique approach that encourages people to be a part of the change. On January 16, Mayor Booker spoke with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. From his Facebook:
On The Rachel Maddow Show tonight I discussed an amazing program in our city that takes guns off our streets and turns them into jewelry with proceeds going back into the Gun Buyback Amnesty program in Newark – check out this video to learn more: Caliber Connection – Guns into Jewelry.
The Caliber Collection program was already in place before our current gun crisis. Booker came up with the idea when he met Jessica Mindich, founder and CEO of Connecticut-based Jewelry For A Cause, in 2011. Mindlich is “Fmr lawyer, proud mom of 2 who believes purchasing jewelry can be an act of philanthropy. Jewelry for a Cause creates jewelry that sparkle with good intentions!” (Source: Twitter)
Booker and Mindlich realized that it would be a great way of drawing attention to the gun control issue while at the same time raising money for more buy-back programs.
“We were talking about gun violence and the challenges in Newark and she had this company and she and I sort of hatched this idea,” Booker told The Star-Ledger. “In less than a year she had this product done.”
Mindich developed the Caliber Collection of bangle bracelets modeled after the trigger cage of a handgun.
“I spent a lot of time coming down to Newark and talking about his vision for this,” she said. “It was a very collaborative effort in the design stage, and he was very clear that this was about positive imagery and re-purposing.”
The Caliber Collection story:
The Caliber Collection is made up of metal from 250 guns and bullet casings seized by the Newark Police Department. The result is a series of pieces that embody the gun’s transformation from a destructive weapon to a powerful symbol of renewal. Jewelry for a Cause proudly donates a portion of the proceeds from each sale to the Gun Buyback Amnesty program in Newark.
Each of the guns was carefully processed and released to Jewelry For A Cause by the Police Department of Newark. Their serial numbers were tracked and are an important part of the design in each of the pieces of jewelry. The metal from the guns and bullet casings were shredded by Sims Metal Management in Jersey City.
The name Caliber was chosen for its two meanings; the caliber of a gun and how the caliber of a city is raised when illegal guns are taken off its streets.
One of the most popular and vocal mayors in the U.S., Booker speaks candidly about controversial topics and began fighting for gun control way before the horror of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy. A member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, Booker released an October 2011 video in which he spoke out against the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, which would require states that allow concealed gun carry to recognize each other’s permits. He called the bill an “insane” policy that would put civilians and police officers “at-risk.”
“We cannot have a situation where Congress passes a law and the next thing you know is people are showing up in your community with hidden weapons that you, your state legislature, your mayors don’t want to have happen,” Booker said in a Huffington Post.
Booker wrote an article for the Huffington Post on December 21, 2012 in which he outlined a few very basic steps towards “pragmatic and achievable gun law reform.” He also made an appearance on ABC’s This Week on December 23, 2012 in which he delivered an emotional argument that called the gun control debate a “false debate.”
“I don’t know if anybody here has seen anybody shot,” Booker said. “I have. I don’t know if anybody here has had to put their hand in somebody’s chest and try to stop the bleeding so somebody doesn’t die, I have.” He added “What frustrates me about this debate is it’s a false debate, it’s a false debate,” Booker said. “This is a convenient trick to try to divide our country more. Most of us in America, including gun owners, agree on things that would stop the kind of carnage that’s going on in cities all over America.”
His frustration and impatience was clear:
“I’m tired of the political debates,” he added. “They’re not necessary. I’m tired of the ideological positions. We don’t even need to visit them. Let’s stick to the pragmatic center where all Americans believe the same thing and let’s pass legislation that would make America safer.”
On January 14, 2013, Booker spoke with Abby Huntsman on HuffPost Live about sensible gun control policies and called the false debate about gun control “horse hockey.” He stated that 74% of NRA members agree with the pragmatic policies that would make my city safer,” and cited his Huffington Post editorial.
“Things like this that are insane to me, you can be on the terrorist no-fly list in the United States of America. We suspect you so much of being a terrorist that we won’t even let you get on a plane but you can go to a gun show in the United States of America without doing a background check and buy a trunk-load of weapons?”
The mayor told Rachel Maddow that in the past, guns were melted down and the metal sold, but the melted metal now serves a different kind of purpose, Booker says: “an instrument of peace.” All bracelets have the serial number of the gun from which it was made, as well as the word “Newark” engraved on its side.
The most valuable piece in the collection is the Brass Bangle with Diamond, priced at $375.
Description from the website:
The oval shape of the bracelet mimics the trigger cage of a gun and serves as a reminder of the destruction that is caused when the trigger of a gun is pulled. Each series carries a serial number that corresponds with one of the guns that were taken off the streets of Newark by the Police Department. Embedded next to the serial number is a single diamond (approx 0.11cts); strong, precious and rare…like human life.
The side of the bracelet is hand hammered to symbolize the hard work required, not only of the police, but of each individual, in the fight to get illegal guns off the streets of their community.
The pieces are handmade, no two are exactly alike. Embedded next to the serial number is a single diamond (approx 0.11cts).
Unlike law enforcement officers in some cities and states, Newark police director Sam DeMaio is being honest about the gun problem in saying that he feels that the more guns he can pull out of the community, the lower Newark’s crime rate will be. There were 90 murders in Newark last year.
“The gun violence is the number one thing we are battling every day,” he said.
DeMaio said that last year, Newark police collected more than 850 guns, but once they got them off the streets, they didn’t know what to do with them. Pairing up with Jewelry for a Cause via the Caliber Collection resolves that issue.
“I was going to re-purpose them into something that was beautiful, hopefully that would connect with both the message of turning kind of ugly into beautiful,” Jessica Mindich said. (Source: CBS News)
DeMaio was skeptical at first. “‘We’re gonna do what? Melt down guns and make jewelry out of it?’ I thought it was really crazy. But then I met with Jessica and saw her passion for it.” (Source: CBS News)
DeMaio has not been a big supporter of buy-back programs, and has said that the programs tend to attract people looking to dispose of old guns that are no longer being used rather than the handguns and semi-automatic rifles that he’d like to see off of the streets. But he’s changed his stance somewhat because of this new approach.
“I think if we target and advertise in the right neighborhoods, then we do have a chance to get some guns off the street that will cause violence in the city,” he said. (Source: Newark Star-Ledger)
He’s actually become quite a fan of the Caliber Collection bangles. “My anniversary is coming up,” he said. “I’m certainly going to buy some for wife.” (Source: Newark Star-Ledger)
Booker recognizes that this program isn’t going to solve the entire gun problem, but it’s one of many small steps towards increasing awareness. “Everybody has the power to do something little,” he said. “Something small and to make a difference,” Booker told Maddow (Source).
That’s a concept that hasn’t been explored to its full potential. Instead of asking what the government is doing to increase gun control, why don’t each of us see if there is something we can do as individuals to make a difference?
The bracelets are priced between $150 and $375. I think people will buy the bracelets as a commemorative piece and a unique gift. Booker says that the city will use the majority of the money to put towards more buy-outs. Mindich donates her earnings back to Newark. On Friday, she gave Mayor Booker $20,000 for the city’s gun buy-back program.
“It’s a thrilling thing to be able to quantify that these bracelets equal fewer guns on the street,” said Mindich.
Mayor Booker’s interview is available on on the Maddow Blog (he gave her two bracelets…one for herself and one for her partner!). You can watch this video for more information about the Caliber Collection. To find out more about Jewelry For A Cause, visit their Facebook page.
I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blog. Find me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.