Seattle Has Artful Plans for the 700-Plus Guns Rounded Up During January Buyback

Seattle wants to turn weapons into words – literally.

That was the message delivered this morning by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who stood in front of the Chihuly Garden and Glass to announce the city’s new Weapons to Words program. The plan is for the more than 700 guns obtained during January’s gun buyback to be melted down and turned into steel plaques, or “bricks,” that will be adorned with messages about gun violence penned by Seattle school children and placed throughout the city. (Though the pieces of art are largely being referred to as “bricks,” these won’t be the type of bricks that might be picked up and thrown by an anarchist ne’er do well.)

“We were inspired by the idea that we could take these weapons and do something meaningful with them, something symbolic,” McGinn told those gathered at his latest feel-good press conference. He was joined by Leslie Chihuly of the Chihuly Studio, which is sponsoring the program along with Schnitzer Steel, and representatives from the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

McGinn says the program will be “entirely privately funded,” and the thoughtful messages about gun violence – which can be submitted by Seattle school kids in grades 1st through 12th using the website – will be selected by a panel of arts judges. The submissions must be 50 words or less, and kids must get the consent of a parent or guardian to participate. One winner per school will be selected, and the entry deadline is Friday, June 7.

Naturally, when pressed by reporters on hand McGinn was quick to note that a program like Weapons to Words wont, by itself, stop youth gun violence. However, he said the program compliments existing efforts, like the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, that can have a tangible impact on reducing the number of gun-related tragedies the city endures.

“For a lot of our kids, they don’t have a choice about what they’re exposed to. They don’t have a choice about being exposed to gun violence,” said McGinn.

“I don’t think anyone here believes that one project is going to stop gun violence. It’s no one thing … but this is part of it.”

McGinn said another gun buyback event is in the works for sometime this summer, though the details have yet to be finalized.

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