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Last updated July 02.

July 8, 2013 issue

Guns into garden tools

Modern swords-to-plowshares project symbolizes myth of redemptive violence

By Kelli Yoder Mennonite World Review

Mike Martin is learning to turn swords into plowshares — or rather, forge garden tools from AK-47s.

Mike Martin, left, holds a donated AK-47 as Brian Gravestock prepares to saw it in half Feb. 11. It was later turned into three garden tools as part of Martin’s gun-repurposing initiative, RAWtools.

Mike Martin, left, holds a donated AK-47 as Brian Gravestock prepares to saw it in half Feb. 11. It was later turned into three garden tools as part of Martin’s gun-repurposing initiative, RAWtools. — Photo by Joe Roebuck

“The goal is to teach nonviolence and expose what redemptive violence is — a myth,” Martin said of the nonprofit he’s building, RAWtools Inc. His wife, Hannah, came up with the name, turning “war” around.

When the gun-repurposing project launches full-force next spring, it will incorporate classes, demonstrations and community involvement.

“If we just take a pile of guns and make tools out of them, I don’t know that we’re doing very much besides creating a vacuum for guns,” said Martin, of Colorado Springs, Colo. “If we’re able to educate people, there will be no need for that vacuum; the vacuum will just close.”

Martin envisions working toward a day when, as the less-quoted part of Isaiah 2:4 says, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Four years after first having the idea, Martin is thrilled to see the project take off so quickly — both in Colorado Springs and in Philadelphia, where a second location is now in planning stages.

Community of support

Martin began dreaming of RAWtools after the 2009 Mennonite Church USA convention in Columbus, Ohio.

“[Anabaptist writer] Greg Boyd was challenging MC USA to be a little more vocal about what Mennonites have to offer,” Martin said, which made him consider his own witness. He shared the garden tool idea with the Colorado Springs’ Beth-El Mennonite Church youth group he was pastoring at the time.

Then last year’s movie theater shooting in Aurora made him consider it more seriously.

continued on next page »


  • Thanks for this story. Converting AK-47's into gardening tools is both prophetic and poetic justice: the Russian designer of the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, was an engineer who had originally wanted to design agricultural machinery, but was diverted from that peaceable pursuit by the demands of WWII.

    - Darrin Snyder Belousek (jul 10 at 1:03 p.m.)

  • For every gun you turn into a tool, thousands more are manufactured. Not only is it is a waste of time, but it also demonstrates the liberal hippocracy. Is a gun not a tool to begin with? Do you realize more people are killed with hammers in this country then with "assault rifles". More people are killed in this country with knives then guns. When will you liberals figure out that tools don't kill people? It is the wielded of the tool.

    - Reaperfalls (jan 25 at 9:40 a.m.)

  • Thank you Reaperfalls for your excellent comments.

    This article is more evidence that the Anabaptist Wisdom Thinkers don't get it. As is admitted in the article, this will have no affect on homicides committed in our cities where there are already strict gun ownership laws, but this does make people think they are making an important peace witness. When Jesus was on this earth, he had opportunity to send his disciples out one day a week and collect swords and then by his verbal command publicly convert them instantly into gardening tools or eating utensils but he didn't. He didn't tell the Centurion to first turn in his sword to Jesus and then he would heal the Centurion's servant.

    If this RAWtools organization is interested in saving lives and making a strong pro-life witness, then let them collect all the weapons of mass destruction in the abortion clinics in our country where thousands of murders of the innocent unborn are committed each week.

    - Dale Welty (jan 25 at 9:36 p.m.)

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