Activists melt guns, turn into gardening tools to start dialogue about gun violence in Naperville, Chicago

Two activists who are traveling the country to melt guns into gardening tools stopped in Naperville and Chicago on Tuesday.

Shane Claiborne and Mike Martin seek to shape the dialogue about guns in America.

"It's a beautiful thing to see something made for death into something that is made to cultivate life," said Claiborne, co-founder of RAWtools.org.

On Tuesday, a foundry burned at 2,000 degrees in the parking lot of North Central College in Naperville with guns donated by people who don't want them anymore.

Claiborne and Martin, the organization's executive director, shared devastating facts about gun violence in America as described in their book, "Beating Guns: Hope for People who are Weary of Violence."

"We make one gun every three seconds in the United States and we can make on average three tools out of every gun," said Martin.

The presentation is emotional, even when the Second Amendment is staunchly defended, according to the pair. Claiborne and Martin come from gun-owning families in Pennsylvania and are touring the country by bus.

"It is giving space for public lament and to grieve," said Claiborne.

He said those who are moved by their words are "family members (who) have lost to suicide, we have a military service members, police captains of all come to the forge and say we are tired of gun violence and that is the power of it."

Martin is a pastor and certified blacksmith.

"When you are pounding on that metal it does something to you," Martin said. "You realize that you are creating something that used to be designed to take life into something that really gives life to people- it grows food it creates beautiful gardens that really inspire us."

For participants, working the transformation creates perspective.

Christie Melby-Gibbons, who lives in a violent neighborhood in Milwaukee, said it felt powerful to pound at the metal - formerly something that caused anxiety - and take it out of commission.

Her friend, Emily Breffle, was brought to tears by the experience. It helped her to let go of her frustrations. She said pounding the anvil made her realize that life is about the ability to "learn new things and rely on each other and be dependable."

From Naperville, Claiborne and Martin will head to Chicago's North Side. At 6 p.m., they will be at Pilgrim Lutheran Church. They will end their national tour April 18 in Rochester, New York.
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