Peace Museum opens exhibit on the impact of gun violence

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By ROBERT FELTON

On March 11, the Peace Museum (100 N. Central Park Ave. in Garfield Park) hosted an opening reception for an exhibition titled, "Wounded in America."

The exhibition, which is sponsored in part by the Chicago Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, focuses on the impact of gun violence on communities across the country.

"The primary goal of the exhibit is to bring awareness of the problem," said Melissa McGuire, executive director of the museum. "I think many people are aware of the devastating effects of gun violence in many communities, but do not know the statistics on gun violence in America, which are quite disturbing."

The statistics are startling: Every six minutes an American is shot. More Americans die from gun violence than in wars. Gun injury from assault and homicide affects all Americans but is highest among the poor. Gun suicide is highest among white males living in rural communities.

In the year 2000 in the U.S., for instance, there were 28,663 shooting deaths, and 57,509 non-fatal shooting injuries. In fact, during the 20th century, more Americans were killed by gun violence in the U.S. than died from combat wounds, disease, and accidents in World War I, World War II, The Korean War, the Vietnamese War and the Gulf War combined.

"Wounded in America" is the work of Pilsen area residents Robert Drea, who is a photographer, and his wife, Stephanie Arena, a writer. In 1991, they began contacting gun violence survivor support groups and researching domestic violence reports to create a collection of photographs and essays about those in the Chicago area who survived devastating experiences with firearms.

"I found that many people whom we contacted felt it to be very cathartic to talk about their experience," said Arena. "They were very open and cooperative, not to mention courageous."

"The stories and images chronicled through the 'Wounded in America' exhibit have special relevance for gun violence victims, youth, policy makers and legislators, political activists and medical staff," said McGuire. "All of those who are affiliated with firearms, either by the sale of them or possession of them, are encouraged to learn about the tragedy that victims of gun violence experience."

McGuire adds that she intends to organize field trips to the museum to see the exhibit since students on the West Side are so greatly affected by the perpetrators of gun violence.

"The problem of gun violence is very real and affects us all, even if not directly," said Arena. "$100 billion dollars a year is spent treating injuries caused by guns. This includes rehab, hospital care, and legal settlements. So I hope that this exhibit creates a dialogue about the problem throughout the community so that we think a little bit harder about the discussions that have life-altering consequences."

The "Wounded in America" exhibit will run until April 29. There is no price of admission, only a requested $3 donation. Hours of operation are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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