An unusual program launched in Chicago’s iconic Daley Plaza last week. The “Chicago Gun Share Program,” a rack resembling a typical bike-share station but equipped with replicas of AR-15 assault rifles, was unveiled near Pablo Picasso’s large public sculpture, seemingly offering members of the public the opportunity to rent an assault rifle.
The installation is actually the work of the Washington, DC-based gun control advocacy group the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. It was designed by the Escape Pod, a Chicago-based advertising agency, and produced by local fabricator Nicholas Berg of Ojo Customs. The design is meant to evoke the docking stations of bike-share systems like Chicago’s Divvy and New York’s Citi Bike. The choice of the AR-15 is similarly deliberate: the rifle is not only among the most popular in the US, but also very frequently used in mass shootings. A display case at the NRA’s National Firearms Museum in Virginia identifies it as “America’s Rifle.”
“We hope the Chicago community takes advantage of the opportunity to visit this installation and to learn just how simple it is for an everyday civilian to obtain a weapon of war,” Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner, the co-presidents of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement.
In addition to the array of 10 aluminum replica guns (which cannot be removed from the dock), the installation features signage contrasting the gun control laws in Illinois and Indiana, suggesting that the Hoosier state’s lax laws limit the effectiveness of the very strict legislation in place in Illinois. According to the signage, one fifth of the firearms used in gun violence in Chicago come from Indiana — a statistic backed up by a 2015 study published in the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology and a 2014 study by the Chicago Police Department. The installation also includes a digital interface that allows members of the public to make donations to the Brady Campaign.
“We wanted to do something that would spark the most conversation and at the same time take donations for the Brady Center,” Norm Bilow, a spokesperson for the Escape Pod, told Hyperallergic.
Though Chicago has long had a reputation for exceptionally high rates of gun violence and gun deaths, the murder rate actually went down in 2017. In the first two months of 2018, shooting incidents decreased by 28%. Nevertheless, the city’s high rate of gun violence compared to other large US cities has often made it a target of critics who claim that gun control laws don’t work.
“Gun violence is an acute problem in the USA. But arguably, the lack of legislative action to implement even the most basic and rudimentary gun regulation is the real problem,” Vinny Warren, the Executive Creative Director of the Escape Room, said in a statement. “Our goal here is to start a conversation on one of the more burning issues of our day, and in the process, raise much needed funds for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. This issue is especially relevant to our home town of Chicago, which has suffered more than most from the plague of gun violence.”
Though originally intended to remain on view in Daley Plaza through May 16, a spokesperson for the Brady Campaign told Hyperallergic that it will actually come down tonight (at 9pm Chicago time) due to permitting issues.