taking the words of Jesus seriously

According to the Gun Violence Archive, over 44,000 people died by firearm in 2022. That’s 120 people per day. Gun Violence is now the leading cause of death for kids under the age of 18 – not car crashes or cancer, but guns.

We continue to be exhausted, bordering numb, to the growing number of mass shootings each day. The trauma and anxiety around sending kids to school, participating in active shooter drills, at school and at work. I worry each year if it’s going to be the year my elementary kids are told what the drills are for. Young parents have grown up with these drills and our country hasn’t acted collectively to make it any different for the next generation. 

After the Sandy Hook massacre, RAWtools formed and traveled the country turning guns into garden tools while centering the voices of those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. We go where we are invited, by word of mouth and relationship. Survivors come to the anvil, pick up a hammer, and beat the Hell out of an object that has caused weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But there is hope at that anvil, too. We discover it doesn’t have to be this way.  We have the power to transform our communities into places that don’t see the gun as a means to solve the problems of our neighborhood. That heaven tells Hell it has no home here and invites life. The hammer shaping the gun barrel into a plowshare that will cultivate life and invite us into a better way. 

I don’t have to travel as much as I did ten years ago.  The RAWtools disarming network has expanded to include blacksmiths all over the country that are now beating guns into garden tools, inviting our loved ones to train for war no more, and cultivating spaces where fear no longer makes decisions for us.  We are building relationships where people welcome each other with open arms instead of bearing arms.

These blacksmiths are joining forces to make beautiful tools, art, and jewelry out of disabled guns. We’re livestreaming every day through June, amassing 44,000+ minutes of Peace – Making. This is one of the things you do when you realize your thoughts and prayers lead to your own action. 

Not only are Blacksmiths joining the effort, but so are individuals who need to do something, like learn how to use a chop saw to cut up a gun. There is a national Guns to Gardens safe surrender movement where churches are being trained how to be a place that disables unwanted firearms and makes space on weekends to offer this service to their communities. 

Because as the older next generation leaves us, we’ll be inheriting millions of firearms. We’ll have an opportunity to exit the cycles of violence.  We can say “Enough,” as Jesus did to Peter in the garden, to a gun culture that no longer cares about a mass shooting short of its benefit to their bottom line. 

We’re called to turn our swords into plowshares because we were taught to pray, “On Earth as it is in Heaven.” 

Every time I talk to a volunteer who is helping us, they always echo the last one I spoke to, “I needed to DO SOMETHING that made a difference.” We hear this from survivors who have picked up the hammer, too, “This experience has helped me heal like others haven’t.” 

The RAWtools 44k Marathon is being livestreamed most days from 8am to 8pm (Central time) most days through the end of June for Gun Violence Prevention Month. Sometimes we start earlier or go a little later. We’re living into Pete Seeger’s and Lee Hays’ words, “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, all over this town. I’d Hammer out danger, I’d hammer out a warning, I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters, ah-ah, All over this land.”

About The Author


Mike is the founder and Executive Director of RAWtools and co-author of "Beating Guns: Hope for People Who are Weary of Violence." A former youth and young adult pastor at Beth-El Mennonite Church, Mike is licensed for specialized ministry for the work of RAWtools by Mountain States Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA. Mike also serves on the leadership board for MSMC. He has a BA in Biblical studies.

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