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A Thousand Bullets Appear on My Doorstep

by Maureen Cain.

A box of 1,000 rounds of ammunition is accidentally delivered to my address outside of Seattle. My first thought is, "I'm going to use these to make art."

My daughter Erin has just returned from the Peace Corps and is staying with me while we prepare for a road trip to Arizona. She suggests that it might not be safe for live ammunition to be rattling around in the trunk for 1600 miles, so we call the Sheriff. A cop arrives and takes the bullets away.

But the bullet art idea has stuck. Erin and I visit a local firing range and they agree to give us all the empty casings we can carry. We bring home 1,200 casings and several cans of spray paint.

We arrange the painted casings at sites of gun violence from the US-Canada border to the US border with Mexico. We photograph locations where famous people were shot, like the corner where Tupac Shakur was killed and the grocery store where then-US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived an assassination attempt and six people were murdered.

Mostly, though, we photograph places where everyday people are killed or injured from guns. We photograph sites of school and mall shootings, police brutality, deadly violence against women, road rage, suicide, gang violence, border shootings, genocide and at the site of the largest mass shooting in modern American history.

We begin this project the day a shooter kills 3 people, including 2 young children, and injures 13 others at the annual garlic festival in Gilroy, California.

During our two week road trip, approximately 1500 Americans are killed by gun violence. (That's about one death per mile of our drive.) In these two weeks, there are at least 17 mass shootings, including at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio. We complete the last photograph on the day six police officers are shot in Philadelphia.

Marysville Pilchuck High School, an hour south of the US-Canada border. In 2014 a 15 year old boy shot five students, killing four, and then killed himself.

Yakima, Washington. In 2018 in this school parking lot, a 19 year old was shot and killed by a 17 year old. Police classified this incident as a suspect-on-suspect murder. In 2018, there were 2,100 such deaths in the US.

Pendleton, Oregon. Site of a suicide by gunshot inside a car in 2017. Every year in the U.S. an estimated 22,000 people kill themselves with guns.

Oregon Trail, near Baker City, Oregon. Unknown number of Native Americans killed in genocide by European settlers, many killed by gun fire.

Boise, Idaho. Near the site where a 19 year old woman was murdered. On average 3 women are shot and killed every day in the US by their partner. Women of color are disproportionately murdered in partner-related violence.

Boise, Idaho. Historic State Penitentiary. This cell held a prisoner who shot and killed a man in the 1960s. There are currently 179,000 inmates in state prisons across the US convicted of murder with a deadly weapon.

Salt Lake City, Utah. Site of the Trolley Square mall shooting in 2007. Five people were killed and four were injured.

Las Vegas, Nevada. Spot where Tupac Shakur was murdered in 1996.

Las Vegas, Nevada. Site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Pictured are 1,100 casings, the number of rounds fired by the gunman, in 58 stacks, the number of victims killed. Hundreds more were injured.

Las Vegas, Nevada. Site of a road rage murder. This photo was taken 12 hours after the incident. There are more than 100 incidents of gun related road rage in the US every year.

Tucson, Arizona. Inside the grocery store where six people were killed and 13 others were injured by gunfire during a mass murder and assassination attempt on US Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011.

Nogales, Arizona at the US-Mexico border. Since the 1980s, dozens of migrants have been injured or killed by gun fire from US Border Patrol agents or from vigilantes. Increased border militarization and US immigration policy contributes to hundreds of migrants dying annually near the border, mostly from heat exposure and drowning.

Nogales, Arizona. Near the site where US Border Patrol agent Lonnie Ray Swartz fired 16 shots through the border fence, killing José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, an unarmed 16 year old boy in 2012. Swartz was later acquitted of the charge of second-degree murder.

Maureen Cain

Artist & Speaker

Gun violence data from Gun Violence Archive.

You can view more photos at United States of Ammunition.

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