Nonprofit Turns Guns Into Garden Tools


A group watching RAWtools transform a gun into a garden tool. | Image by Fred Martin/RAWtools

North Dallas resident Charles Barker and others decided to donate their unwanted guns to RAWtools, a Colorado-based nonprofit whose volunteers convert guns into garden tools.

Barker told The Dallas Morning News that he sees the “symbolic act” as guns becoming “more life-oriented than potentially death-oriented” objects.

He bought a rifle to teach his grandsons how to shoot, but after only a few sessions, Barker decided he did not need it. Barker saw donating to RAWtools as a safe way to dispose of his firearm.

In 2010, Mike Martin, a Mennonite pastor, came up with the idea for RAWtools, a sort of gun buyback program with a twist. The 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting further spurred him to get involved in “restorative justice work” and “non-violent skills and training.”

The organization now has around 80 volunteers across the country who are trained to destroy firearms. Out of the 2,000 firearms received so far by RAWtools, roughly one to two dozen of them came from the Dallas area.

Martin stated that the organization “sees an increase in donations” after highly-publicized mass shootings, like in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.

However, according to Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans believe that if someone wishes to harm themselves or others, they will find a way, whether they have access to a gun or not. Most Americans seem to believe that it is not the guns that are inherently violent, but the people who commit violence with them.

Additionally, the efficacy of gun buyback programs is questionable at best. According to CNN’s Peter Nickeas, “decades of research shows such programs don’t reduce gun violence, in large part because they don’t result in guns being taken from people who aren’t supposed to have them.”

He cited a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research which found that gun buyback programs do not necessarily reduce crime.

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