If you follow rap, reggae or gun control, you may be aware of the transformation of gun-toting gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg into peace-loving reggae singer Snoop Lion. His first single as Snoop Lion, “No Guns Allowed,” grabbed attention not only for its anti-gun hook--“Let the music play, me don’t want no more gunplay”--but for its pointedly topical video: It opens with Obama speaking at a prayer vigil in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Now Snoop is throwing his weight behind an actual, if small-scale, gun control project: turning illegal firearms into wrist-wear. He is the face of the MTV x Caliber, a bracelet made from a melted-down illegal gun bought back by the Newark Police Department. For every $40 spent on the bracelets, $8 will go to buying more guns.
"We’ve seen a lot of senseless acts of violence involving guns recently--too many have lost their lives, too many families have been destroyed," Snoop said in a statement. "Like my friends at MTV, I want to be a part of the change that will help bring peace."
The Snoop-endorsed jewelry was launched at the MTV Movie Awards, where he sported a prototype on the red carpet along with the likes of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
It’s an offshoot of a project inspired by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, launched last fall by Connecticut jewelry designer Jessica Mindich and christened the Caliber Collection by her 12-year-old son. “It seemed to fit so perfectly because of the double entendre of the caliber of a gun, and when you get illegal guns off the streets, you raise the caliber of the city,” she said in an interview with Time.
When MTV approached Mindich about making bracelets as party favors for the MTV Movie Awards, her Jewelry for a Cause operation was low on guns and therefore on gunmetal. The bracelets sported on the red carpet were stamped with real serial numbers from a buyback in Essex County, but metal-wise they were gun free. “We are in production on a new batch of MTV x Caliber bracelets now, which should be ready in July, and we expect those will be made 100% from recycled gun metal,” said Jason Rzepka of MTV. According to Rzepka, the money already raised by the Caliber Collection has allowed Newark to expand a gun buyback planned for April 27 to a two-day affair--which will presumably provide more raw materials.
The project is controversial, and not just because there is some doubt about the efficacy of gun buybacks. "Social entrepreneur" Peter Thum is suing Mindich, alleging she stole her idea from his Fonderie 47, which makes watches, necklaces and a $13,000 pair of cufflinks from African AK-47s. But this patent-trolling has an appropriately charitable twist: Thum says he’ll donate any damages to reducing gun violence.
Only time will tell how this controversy and attention will affect the enthusiasm of Shaquille O’Neal, who met with Governor Chris Christie in March to discuss getting involved in the state’s buyback programs.