“Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as the war hawks.” – MLK Feb 25, 1967
Fifty-three years ago Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against a Vietnam war that had grown grotesque. In this speech in Beverly Hills, alongside elected officials, he exclaimed the “negative good” of war was no longer feasible with advances in technology like the napalm and the nuclear bomb.
We find the United States in a similar situation with gun violence. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of May 26, there were 232 mass shootings. Two of those mass shootings happened in my home state of Colorado and garnered national attention: one in Boulder in March (10 dead), and more recently in my hometown of Colorado Springs (6 dead).
It is a situation that has been boiling over for years. The United States is unique to the world in our gun ownership, with nearly 400 million guns, more than one per resident. The prevalence of guns is not by accident. The firearm industry has sold guns through fear and victim shaming. Aided by the failing NRA, the gun industry makes an average of 3 guns per second in the united States.
In a situation that can often feel without hope, I’ve seen new commitments to ending gun violence, especially by the faith community, begin to rise. After the Boulder Mass Shooting, RAWtools helped with a Vigil on Good Friday at Boulder Mennonite Church, directly across the street from the shooting. The vigil made space for the community to grieve, pray, and take up a hammer to help turn a gun into a garden tool.
Thoughts bring imagination, prayers can bring hope, and hope springs action. One pastor who attended the vigil was Rev. Nicole LaMarche of Community United Church of Christ. Their church has a social action committee that has been preparing to support their community as the threat of the pandemic begins to loosen its grip. When the shooting happened, they knew they wanted to support heir community. RAWtools is partnering with them on June 13th to hold a buyback to offer anonymous, safe surrender of unwanted firearms.
We will also be having a gun to garden tool demonstration that evening, inviting the community to imagine a world where we use different tools to solve conflict. Artists will be commissioned to make pieces to be displayed in public and possibly sold to raise money for future buybacks. And yes, every gun barrel will be made into a garden tool. We may make a gun every three seconds in this country, but we can make an average of three garden tools out of every gun donated to RAWtools, not including art and other lovely things that encourage life and community.
Two weeks later we’ll hold a weekend Roundtable on gun violence prevention with Boulder Mennonite Church and Mountain States Mennonite Conference.
Its happening because faith communities are planning for peace actively, ready to hear the Spirit’s call into the work the Spirit is already doing. If we are called into a time of turning swords to plowshares, it makes less and less sense to make more swords, and makes all the more sense to act in the Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer, “on earth, as it is in heaven.”