Patricia Brown, writing for the NYT Opinion section:
The venerable art of blacksmithing is not generally considered to be a radical act. But for Michael Martin, a 36-year-old Mennonite from Colorado Springs, the malleability of glowing metal from a forge’s inferno makes it the perfect vehicle for addressing gun violence.
Mr. Martin, a former youth pastor, was inspired to learn blacksmithing after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, in which a deranged young man with an AR-15 assault rifle killed 20 children and six educators. Three months later, Mr. Martin started Raw Tools, a nonprofit organization dedicated to converting the “swords” of contemporary America — handguns, assault weapons and semiautomatic rifles — into garden tools, or erstwhile plowshares, at once fulfilling the Old Testament mandate and forging a new kind of public ritual for processing grief.
This project is hands down my favorite literal application of something from the Bible. Prophets like Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) from the Hebrew scriptures envision the world without war, where instruments of violence can be turned into garden tools. I would normally caution readers of the Bible before taking any specific section too literally, but this is beautiful and necessary.
As a Mennonite, Mr. Martin comes from a long tradition of nonviolence and considers his work a form of conscientious objection (“raw” is “war” spelled backward). The first gun he converted into a garden tool came from a friend in Colorado Springs who wanted to get rid of an AK-47 he had bought for protection after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Since then, Raw Tools has transformed several hundred guns, with help from a “disarming network” of volunteer blacksmiths around the country. With the exception of a tattoo on his arm in which “War No More” is scribbled on a fig, Mr. Martin resembles the tools he makes — simple, direct and without embellishment. He relies on small grants from local foundations and Mennonite organizations. “Our work,” he said, “is about a cultural shift, to get communities and neighborhoods to rethink the tools they use to keep themselves safe.”