A mural on Guns in America by artist JR and TIME is seen in Manhattan on October 28, 2018.
Andres Kudacki for TIME
By Holly Sullivan
November 1, 2018
IDEAS
Holly Sullivan is a human resources manager and Executive Board Member of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.

Like many, I was apprehensive of what to expect by participating in the “Guns in America” project but could not have been more pleased with the unedited and aesthetically beautiful final product. JR is an artist in every sense of the word and it has been an honor to be a part of this project. I am truly heartbroken tonight to see the vandalism of the mural in the Bowery. I am angry and sad but I know I need to find the words tonight to truly explain it’s depth.

As you all know, many of the pro-2nd Amendment participants were not only cautious but downright reluctant and nervous to be involved. This is a result of years of experiences not unlike what happened at the mural.

Sadly, we have come to expect backlash, criticism without conversation and public humiliation.

You have heard the stories of folks in the mural who defend our right to own a firearm for many reasons. We are of all backgrounds, religions, orientations and creeds. We are immigrants, men, women, minorities, scholars, survivors and sportsmen. We are a cross section of the American people. However, law-abiding gun owners are no longer welcome in American society. Tolerance and open-mindedness is a concept advocated towards most other groups of Americans but often not us.

We break no laws in owning our firearms. In fact, we are background checked, vetted and held to the highest standards. We are not anti-Semites. Gabriella Hoffman who is placed next to me in the mural is of Jewish heritage.

I see the symbolic red, the notion that blood is on our hands. We have been chastised with it many times before. It is across the body of my friend Amy Dillon, a Marine who served our country proudly. It is also across Corinne Mosher, a mother and wife of a police officer. These women are not murderers. We agreed put our faces on a billboard and displayed around the world in order to stand for what we believe in already knowing how we have been berated in the past.

I am writing this with tears on my face. Perhaps for the first time, you all may get a glimpse of how we are often seen by our opponents, why we are so hesitant and cautious. This is our reality: we have all been told before when these events happen that we have blood on our hands, we are not fit to be parents, this is our fault.

I hope you will take away from my message that we are just as horrified about what happened in Pittsburgh. We are no less angry, we are no less empathetic. We do wish someone had been there to stop it. But, we are not responsible. We have our stories and reasons to live the way we do.

I needed to let you know how deeply sorry we are that JR’s art has been vandalized by cowards. It is beautiful and moving for anyone who chooses to be open enough to understand it, to understand each and every one of us. I am optimistic that from this there is an opportunity to voice that tolerance does need to go both ways.

Perhaps, there is an opportunity to truly begin a conversation and bring enlightenment to all sides that is sorely needed in order to move forward.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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