Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Guns to Gardens hopes to fire up imaginations

Bang. Bang. Bang.

With final authority metal has slammed into metal and it is the sound of a gun. It could be the sound of the bullets that cut an opening into Sandy Hook Elementary School, resulting in 26 deaths.

Instead, that rhythmic singing of steel is a gun barrel. In this case, it’s a non-violent sound, because the gun is being crushed between a blacksmith’s anvil and his hammer. This is what you will witness on Saturday, October 29 at Guns to Gardens.

Raw Tools 106
Blacksmith Mike Martin, of RAW Tools, turned a Colt .45 handgun into this mattock head. Photo by Raw Tools

Forging new ways of thinking

Controversial, highly visual and confrontational messages are not normally associated with the Mennonite community. Yet without raising a voice or lifting a hand in violence, Pastor Jacob Shenk and Sam Melden hope to spark a change in our collective response to gun violence.

Spectators will see a modern hand gun heated up and turned into a garden tool.  Mr. Meldon said, “People have mental models that are in a rut. We need to get our collective imaginations unstuck and I hope this will be the spark that fires people up.”

Mennonite blacksmith Mike Martin of Raw Tools has been turning fully functional guns into garden tools monthly, since 2013. It was the Newtown Connecticut tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children, kindergarteners and 1st graders, together with six adults, were murdered by a lone gunman on December 14, 2012 that inspired this Mr. Martin’s unique response. Guns to Gardens organizer Sam Meldon said, “I don’t want to have to wait until something terrible happens in Toledo for us to start having this discussion.”


Peace is for everyone

Shenk is the soft spoken Pastor of Toledo Mennonite Church, one of the 4 primary sponsors. “The enormity of the gun violence problem, with little change actually taking place, inspired our hope for a new way for us all to think about the problem.”  Using the blacksmith to deliver the visual message is not original. The concept has a biblical origin, from Isaiah 2:4, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”  Contrary to what some might think, the event is not meant to be religious, as the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence is also a primary sponsor along with 21 other supporting partner organizations.

Join in the conversation

RAW Tools, is a Colorado based nonprofit organization. They can be found on the web at rawtools.org . If you want send a gun to Raw Tools and have it turned into a gardening implement, complete instructions for the process are available on their web site.

Guns to Gardens will be held on Saturday, October 29, 2-5 PM at the University Church Community Garden 4747 Hill Avenue, Toledo, OH 43615.

 In addition to the forging of a mattock, the family friendly event will include garden tours, a bluegrass band, information booths, arts and crafts, and fall snacks with cider.  

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