In 2016, there have asdbeen more than 105 mass shootings in the United States. Just last October, Umpqua Community College (UCC) in Roseburg just 60 miles down the road suffered through everyone’s worst nightmare — a shooting with 10 fatalities.

After the UCC shooting, a group of students at the UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) decided to take a stand against gun violence in a unique, never-before-seen way.

SOJC advertising students Chris Larsen, Cody Hatfield, Jacob Mehringer, Justin Hun and Tommy Woods created Our Memories Matter, an interactive campaign to draw gun violence back into the national conversation. But this time, they hope to make it personal by connecting with people about what they value most.

The interactive campaign website begins by asking permission to interact with your Facebook account. The site then highlights statistics and other people’s memories. Then the multimedia experience gets personal, pulling photos and videos from your personal Facebook account. As the memories continue, they are suddenly put to a stop by a loud gunshot. It then cuts to hard-hitting statistics and facts about gun violence in the United States.

Essentially, the viewer becomes the “victim” in his or her own personalized video. No two videos are the same.

The campaign ends with daunting words intended to incite an emotional connection to the issue of gun violence: “Last year in Oregon, 106 lives were taken by gun violence. That’s 928,560 hours of memories lost. But these are just numbers … until it happens to you.”

This personal, roundabout approach marks a departure from other anti-gun-violence campaigns. According to Mehringer, the team’s ultimate goal for their campaign is to help reduce the number of mass shootings that happen each year in the United States. But rather than making pronouncements about gun laws, the team felt it was important to spark a conversation about gun violence by letting users draw their own conclusions.

“The divisions begin to occur when campaigns like ours seek to provide the solution to a problem that needs far more attention and thought than any one campaign can provide,” Mehringer said. “That is why our focus is not on providing a solution, but on creating one by sparking discussion without picking sides and alienating people who have already dug in and have hard opinions on the issue.”

Professor Tom McDonnell was one of the instructors overseeing the campaign. When the project needed funding, McDonnell saw it as an opportunity to reach out to an old friend, Matt Eastwood, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson.

“Matt and I worked together at DDB New York,” McDonnell said. “We had always talked about doing something with gun violence in the country but never got around to it.”

Eastwood donated $4,500 to support server space for the project’s first month. Depending on how many hits the site makes, the dollar amount will rise up to a total of $10,000.

To participate in the Our Memories Matter campaign, visit the interactive website.

Story by Nikki Kesaris ’18
Video by Jacob Mehringer ’16