Remembering Sandy Hook

Remembering Sandy Hook December 14, 2018
6 years ago RAWtools, Inc. didn’t exist. And then tragedy struck in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Thoughts and prayers about RAWtools existed. But not action. The following February we officially launched when a local resident, also moved by the tragedy, decided his AK-47 was useless. So we cut it up and made garden tools out of it.

Others started to join in. People sent us their disabled guns from all over the country. Did you know its common for a gun to be returned to next of kin after a suicide?  Sure its property.  But its not just a gun sitting in the safe any more.  A person at my church gave us a gun he had held onto for decades after his father’s suicide.  Suicide accounts for 2/3 of gun violence.  New numbers were released this week that tell us 109 people PER DAY are lost to gun violence. Nine of those are kids under the age of 19 according to the CDC database.  That means every 3 days we lose another classroom of kids to gun violence.  These deaths are spread across the country instead of concentrated in one place so they go under the radar.  

After Parkland, teachers  sent us their guns because they didn’t want them as part of their life, or anyone else’s.  2 years ago a priest bought raffle tickets for an AR-15 just so he could destroy it.  People connected us to him and we made a garden tool out of it.  He was then invited to the national gun violence vigil in Washington D.C. by the Newtown Foundation.  This planted seed.

Last fall we helped train inmates to make garden tools out of 140+ guns obtained through a buyback in New Haven, CT.  In the spring of 2019 we’ll present over 100 fully functional tools to be spread across community gardens and high school gardens in Connecticut.  They’ll help grow fresh food for local food banks.  Out of this another seed is growing as two blacksmith stations will be working throughout New England to turn more swords into plowshares.

Its long overdue that we lay our guns down.  We don’t need them to solve conflict.  You or someone in your home is more likely to be harmed by the gun in your home than to use it against an intruder.  We must lean into each other with open arms instead of opening our doors while bearing arms.  We must have dialogue with each other, especially outside of social media.  We can talk to our legislators and vote every other year, but we must also do the hard work in between. 
In 2018 we piloted our second location in Toledo, OH.  They started with one donor giving up 24 guns he had inherited. 
A year before that we held a gun to garden tool event in Toledo.  A news crew was on its way to cover our event but was pulled to the scene of a tragedy where a 7 year old accidentally shot a 3 year old.  When they finally arrived at our event we were wrapping up by having kids use a shovel we made to plant a hazelnut tree that would help feed the local community. 
Those 24 guns that were donated were a part of a workshop that taught youth and young adults how to make garden tools from guns in the morning and how to use nonviolence in the afternoon.  This is what must change.
The picture below offers many ways you can turn thoughts and prayers into action.
-Two of the tools are going to a gun donor.  If you donate a gun, we’ll make a tool for you out of it for freeWe are building a national disarming network to help turn guns into garden tools.  Join!
-The other tools are finished from our work in Connecticut and will be used in 2019.  Contact us if you want to organize a buyback in your community.
-We contributed to “A Loaded Conversation” dialogue resource with Mennonite Central Committee.  Use this resource (and others inside it) in your faith communities and other groups and stay at the table when talking to each other about gun violence.  Last night we used it with a small group of people in our church.  We used a talking piece, made from a hand gun in the shape of a feather.  As the feather went around the circle we shared abut how gun violence has affected us.
-For nearly 6 years, all of our tools have had an olive branch burned into its grip.  This is a biblical reference to peace and a promise of #NeverAgain.  Never again will that gun be able to take life. We must affect change in our neighborhoods.
We are living in a time when we can inherit dozens of guns (and gun deaths). 
What will we pass on to our children?
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