NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Transforming instruments that can lead to death into tools of life.
A group of organizations on the Peninsula is forging peace to take back the community. They’re doing so in a way that’s never been done before in Hampton Roads.
The James River Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy not only wants to end gun violence but transform its impact on the community. The center is partnering with Raw Tools, a Philadelphia-based organization that takes guns and forges them into garden tools.
“This is what a gun looks like when it gets born again,” said Shane Claiborne, founder of Raw Tools.
Claiborne says his initiative has biblical origins.
“It really came from that idea of beating swords into plows and spears into pruning hooks. The bible speaks of that,” Claiborne explained.
Its impact re-shaping the Newport News community and sowing hope where violence bore destruction.
“The cycles of violence that entrap us are not all that there is,” said Rev. Michael Burnett.
The James River Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy held an event with Raw Tools of Philadelphia at St. John’s Church of God in Christ in Newport News this past April. Each spark, igniting the fire to fight gun violence.
“Every time we do it we’re sort of declaring all things can be made new. Metal can be recrafted but so can our hearts. The hearts that have done violence can be reshaped,” Claiborne explained.
James River Chapter President John Gregoire tells 10 On Your Side the event and partnership have been years in the making.
“This has evolved after almost a two-year period of time,” Gregoire stated.
Claiborne travels all over the country encouraging folks to take back their neighborhoods. He says the visits have become cathartic for those who have lost loved ones to violence.
“We’re also honoring people’s pain and their grief. The trauma that people have experienced,” Claiborne said.
Claiborne explains that there are several ways he receives guns–some from the public, others from municipalities and law enforcement.
“This isn’t just a bunch of folks coming in from out of town, saying a bunch of stuff to make us feel better and then leaving. This really is about trying to invest in our community here in Newport News,” Burnett stated.
With a hiss of his forge and the pound of a hammer, Scotty Utz, an Asheville-based blacksmith, turns agents of death into bearers of life.
“We come and get behind the community organizations like the ones that are sponsoring us today and say we’re with you. We just bring the forge and say let’s change things,” Claiborne concluded.
The James River Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy tells us the gardening tools created out of surrendered guns will be donated to community garden initiatives.
They also hope to open a Raw Tools shop in Hampton Roads–like the one in Philadelphia–where folks can de-commission firearms into tools of life.