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At Swords to Plowshares in Guilford, guns to become garden tools

GUILFORD — Turning gun parts into garden tools and jewelry is a hopeful event, with families invited to take part in this creative and peaceful endeavor.

“What we’re about is transforming weapons into instruments and hope and joy,” said Rev. James Curry, co-founder of Swords to Plowshares Northeast (s2pnortheast.org).

“That’s what a garden tool is,” he said. “It’s an instrument of nurture.”

Transforming Guns into Garden Tools, presented by Swords to Plowshares Northeast, is slated for 11:30 a.m. Sunday, June 26, at the Christ Episcopal Church, 11 Park St. The event is free.

Onsite will be blacksmithing tools, gloves and safety glasses available for the public interested in participating in the event.

Curry talked about the group’s portable forge.

“It’s self-contained,” he said. “It heats the metal to about 2,000 degrees, which makes it so that we can pound it into shape and we use an anvil, hammers and tongs.

Curry said it is an enlightening experience for all participants.

“One of the real powers of Swords to Plowshares is that people get to participate in the transformation of something that was an instrument of tremendous potential harm and making it into an instrument that is an instrument for nurture and growth,” he said.

The finished products are donated to school and community gardens, youth empowerment programs and violence interruption programs.

In addition, the group fashions heart necklaces “out of a ring of a shotgun barrel.”

The group makes two types of necklaces. One is the one made during the event that can be taken home and enjoyed by attendees, the other is a “high end” piece of jewelry, which is sold to support the work of Swords to Plowshares Northeast.

Swords to Plowshares was started in 2017 and is part of the RAW Tools national network, started by a group of Colorado Mennonites after the Sandy Hook shooting.

The founding partners, locally, were Christ Episcopal Churches in Guilford, Hamden and New Haven.

The group works throughout the northeast and locally with the Guilford Police Department, Ethan Miller Song Strong Foundation and Yale New Haven’s Injury Prevention Program during the town’s gun buy-back event.

The Guilford Police Department collected 123 firearms during the department’s third annual gun buy-back event in October 2021.

“I love this program, taking instruments of death to instruments of life,” Guilford resident Kristin Song said via text.

Song’s 15-year-old son, Ethan Song, died in 2018 after accidentally shooting himself at a friend’s house. Since their son’s death, Kristin Song and her husband, Mike Song, have worked tirelessly to change federal and state laws to help prevent more accidental gun deaths.

All the rifle and shotgun parts used during the local Transforming Guns into Garden Tools event are deemed safe for handling by Guilford police.

“We work with the fire department, who has tools to render them inoperable,” said Guilford Police Department Chief Warren “Butch” Hyatt.

“So, we get direction from the state police and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) regarding where those guns should be cut, to render them inoperable, which we would do before we give them any weapons,” said Hyatt.

“The barrels — parts like that — are very important to them, but some other parts are not even usable,” he added.

Hyatt applauded the work of the organization.

“They’re trying to make a difference, the way that they can,” he said. “Instead of it (gun material) just going into a big pot and melting it, reusing it in a very positive way.”

Curry said that working with the guns is “tremendously powerful.”

“When I work with people and invite them to the forge, people who have had the experience of gun violence in their lives — whether it’s a friend or a relative or themselves — as you look at them and have them hammer away at the gun, there is such a moment of empowerment that this gun, which has done tremendous harm in their life is now being reshaped by them,” Curry said. “It no longer has that kind of power.”

That’s what we’re about,” he added. “Breaking the cycle of violence.”

Transforming Guns into Garden Tools, 11:30 a.m., June 26, , Christ Episcopal Church, 11 Park St., Guilford. Event is free. For more information contact [email protected].

Swords to Plowshares Northeast, s2pnortheast.org

Sarah Page Kyrcz can be reached at [email protected]

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