Meltdown puts guns back on the street

A US project has found a new use for weapons - as manhole covers

Stacked three-deep on sagging wooden pallets, the manhole covers are yellowing with oxidisation. Obviously, they are fresh from the foundry. Only closer inspection reveals their other, more exceptional, secret: they are also fresh from the killing fields of modern urban America. Oven- fresh, in fact.

Arranged for public viewing outside the Wadsworth Atheneum gallery in Hartford, the covers, 228 in all, are more than an unusual art exhibit. They are also a memorial to the thousands of Americans, most of them young men, cut down by the bullet. They have been moulded from iron melted down from 11,194 illegal guns collected by Connecticut's police since 1992.

Hand guns have become a big issue in Britain after Dunblane. But in the US, there are 72 million of the things at large, and firearms account for about 40,000 deaths a year.

Created by Maine artist Bradley McCallum and unveiled for public viewing this week, few projects have so vividly depicted the scale of America's firearms crisis. In this state alone, 320 young people have been killed by guns since 1988, many of them in Hartford.

There is an added poignancy to their presence. This city was the home of Sam Colt, who introduced the first revolving-chamber handgun, and who, just to the south of here, once operated the world's biggest firearms factory.

Next spring, the covers will be symbolically returned to the streets where today so many of the gun battles are fought. Some of the covers, which bear "SEWER" in large print around their outside, will be installed in the streets around the gallery.

Many others, however, will be placed around Hartford schools and in neighbourhoods where gun violence has been most prevalent.

Their origins, meanwhile, will be on display for all to see. Imprinted on each cover is the message: "Made from 172 lbs of your confiscated guns". In addition is the Latin motto of the Colt company: Vincit qui patitur and its two optional translations: "He who perseveres is victorious" and "He who suffers conquers".

In fact, the state of Connecticut has been sending guns confiscated by the police to a Massachusetts foundry where all of the state's manhole covers are made since 1992.

The practice was instituted by the former Connecticut governor, Lowell Weicker. Previously, guns collected by the police were sold at auction, which meant many of them finding their way back to the streets and to acts of crime.

"Hopefully, this project will serve as a catalyst for dialogue that will address how we can manage guns in a instructive way, " said McCallum, who has entitled his exhibit: The Manhole Cover Project: A Gun Legacy. He likens his work to the old adage of beating swords into ploughshares.

Viewers of the piles of covers can also listen at audio stations to testimonies from a collection of local teenagers who have either witnessed gun violence, been the victims of it, or shot someone themselves.

One voice is of young black man, who, with his mother, witnessed a close friend being gunned down while driving through a city neighbourhood in his car.

Minutes earlier, he had been with him in the car. "You know, it is always like that. I was just with him. People are always saying that. And you think that could have been you". He calls his a "lost generation" because of gun violence, and blames the police and the government. "They make 'em [guns] available to us".

Among those feeling the power of McCallum's exhibition is Inez Yoder, a retired visitor from California. "I think what he has done is just wonderful," she says.

"You look at these covers and you understand the weight of it all. And I mean that literally and figuratively".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there