Swords into Bangles

Brass cuff, courtesy of Caliber Collection.

Brass cuff, courtesy of Caliber Collection.

A woman I know–one of the most tireless social justice workers I’ve had the pleasure of working with–shared the Caliber Collection on Facebook. The shop offers bracelets, forged from illegal weapons collected by the Newark Police force, as well as bracelets, forged from shell casings swept from crime scenes. Proceeds help fund their weapon buyback program. Her comment, in sharing the link, was “interesting.” Which it is.

Swords into baubles–it’s an interesting idea. Aesthetically, I like the hammered brass bracelets better, but they are more emotionally complicated because they are made from shell casings from crime scenes. Chicago destroys weapons collected in buyback programs; I imagine most municipalities do (although, apparently, there are exceptions). But what does “destroyed” mean? I suppose it’s like any other recycling; the metal goes to various uses.

The Caliber Collection is its own recycling, but is it problematic? Is it fetishizing the weapons? Does it romanticize them, making the weapons and the shell casings from crime scenes into bangles?

If it does, is it okay because they are conversation pieces?

The bracelets are traceable uses of the remains of illegal weapons/crime scene evidence and, therefore, cannot be separated from their origins. It’s questionable to casually display the remains of violent crime on your wrist, particularly when your only connection to it is the $125 you paid for the bracelet. The meaning is ambiguous until the wearer talks about it as an emblem of reducing street violence.

It’s problematic, but I don’t think it’s untenable. Emblems are useful, albeit minor, which cuts both ways. The weapons will be recycled anyway–why not recycle them into an emblem of their better use, a badge of support?

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