RAWtools officially started in February of 2013. Before that there were exploratory meetings. Before that was Sandy Hook and Adam Lanza (2012), before that was Aurora and James Holmes (2012), before that was Northern Illinois University and Steven Kazmierczak (2008), before that was Virginia Tech and Seung-Hui Cho (2007), before that was the Nickel Mines Amish School House and Charles Roberts (2006), and before that was Columbine and Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris (1999). In the midst of the “headliners” above are 10,000 gun related homicides per year throughout our country, each day the numerical equivalent of a Sandy Hook shooting. Outside the local communities directly affected, we rarely hear their names, either victims or offenders. And it’s important that we remember the offenders and their families as well if at least to recognize the pain in their lives and families, too. We can learn a lot from the response of the Amish community, who forgave the shooter and embraced his family.
Deeply significant for the inspiration behind RAWtools is the biblical passage in Isaiah 2:4 which states, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (ESV).” It’s easy to see where we get our current focus of turning guns into garden tools. Though often overlooked in this verse is how it ends, “neither shall they learn war anymore.” What would it look like for a community to no longer learn war? It might very well look something like the Nickel Mines Amish community. We hope the tools that we create out of guns points our communities toward nonviolent alternatives.
To this end we intend to track every tool we make to the weapon it was made from. If you donate a weapon, we want you to be able to see the new story it has been given. If you purchase a tool to help support RAWtools, we want you to post pictures and stories about how you are using it. At The Justice Conference in Philadelphia this past February, a young father approached us and explained how he would love to use one of our tools to cultivate and care for his garden, at the same time teaching his young son about where that tool came from and how their family will take purposeful and intentional steps to be an example of nonviolence. We hope and pray that our tools, and not gun violence, provide these teachable moments.
So how does this happen? We can start with laying down our guns. We can embrace practices such as Restorative Justice (victim, offender, and community) and programs such as STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience). There are many sides to gun violence (prevention to recovery). It will take a comprehensive effort to address the issue. We need more creative and comprehensive efforts. RAWtools is one voice in this timely and eschatological chorus for peace. The ability to make, to create, to beget, is inherent. What will we beget of our inherited gun culture? Maybe it’s a return to the garden.