COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In a Colorado Springs garage, a father and son bond over an old trade.
“He’s much better than I am," Mike Martin said, pointing to his dad, Fred. "I can’t blacksmith much more than the garden tools we make, but he can fabricate a lot more stuff than that."
The pair have made more than 1,000 garden tools since they taught themselves the trade nearly a decade ago.
“But doing this work has helped me feel more hopeful," Mike said.
He's hopeful because every time he creates a shovel or a mattock, he transforms a gun.
“So this one of the tools that we make," Mike said, holding up a mattock. "This comes from about six inches of a gun barrel. So rifles can give us three, four, five, sometimes six tools, depending on how much barrel is there."
Mike and Fred learned how to do this nine years ago, when 26 children and staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
In the last three or four years, they have made the bulk of their garden tools after partnering on gun buybacks or receiving confiscated weapons from law enforcement.
RAWtools will be partnering with Aurora and Denver for their gun buyback program in the new year. The goal is to reduce the number of guns that get sold on the street.
As Mennonites, Mike said the scripture calls them toward this work.
They said their work is the modern-day version of the Bible verse Isaiah 2:4, which says "they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will train for war no more. Everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree. No one shall make them afraid.”
"And the more marginalized you get, the more at risk you are of gun violence," Mike said. "So when our society keeps pushing those people away, we’re losing a great bit of input and wisdom from people who can teach us how to heal our communities.”
RAWtools will also be working with the Colorado Crime Survivors Network to bring people who have been impacted by gun violence in on the process.
"There's something beautiful that happens when you take a tool designed to destroy life and turn it into something that sustains life, creates life," Fred said.
If anyone donates a gun to RAWtools, the group will give them a free garden tool made from it in return.
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