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RAWtools converts guns to garden tools, raises money for Trayvon Martin Foundation

5.16. 2016 Written By: Hannah Heinzekehr

Photo: A handgun being transformed into a garden tool during a RAWtools event in Philadelphia. The event was sponsored in collaboration with Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way community. RAWtools photo. 

On May 12, George Zimmerman announced he would auction off to the highest bidder the 9 millimeter firearm that killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012.

Later that day, RAWtools, an organization committed to turning guns into garden tools, launched a social media campaign soliciting the donation of a “surrogate” gun. Surrogate is a term referring to a stand-in participant when an offender cannot be present during a restorative justice process.

In collaboration with Anabaptist bloggers Benjamin L. Corey and Shane Claiborne, the organization hopes to turn this surrogate into a garden tool sometime this week and launch a parallel auction or fundraising campaign raising money for the Trayvon Martin Foundation. The location of the demonstration is not being announced due to security concerns, but the event will be documented and shared publicly.

Michael Martin, founder of RAWtools and a member of Beth-El Mennonite Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., says the inspiration for the organization is to start a “swords to ploughshares movement” and to witness to Jesus’ nonviolent witness. “If there was a time for Christ to ‘stand his ground,’ it would have been in the garden when Peter raised his sword,” said Martin in a May 13 interview. “But Jesus told him to put it down. That’s where we’re at. Putting down our swords.”

Corey was the first to see the news of Zimmerman’s auction and he immediately reached out to Martin and Claiborne to see if they’d be interested in a counter demonstration. His first instinct was to reach out to his bloggers and social media followers for funding to buy Zimmerman’s gun. However, Zimmerman has publicly stated that money raised through the auction will be used to advocate against the Black Lives Matter movement: a cause Corey and others did not want to support.

Instead, on May 12, all three men reached out to their social media followers and asked for a donation of a surrogate gun. Within 48 hours, six firearms had been donated.

As an Anabaptist, Corey says he’s long spoken out against gun violence and advocated for nonviolent enemy love and the “Jesus way,” but he was still surprised by the overwhelming supportive responses from readers. He saw this as a key opportunity for Christians to offer a “counter narrative to the narratives the world offers” and to speak out. “We [Christians] are people who take things of death and make things of life out of them. We strive to be people who seek these mini-resurrections everywhere we go,” said Corey in a May 13 phone interview.

Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder after killing Martin, an unarmed black teenager, on Feb. 26, 2012. The Trayvon Martin Foundation, established by Martin’s parents, describes itself as a “social justice organization committed to ending senseless gun violence.” It also provides support and education for victims of and families affected by gun violence.

For more information about this demonstration, you can follow RAWtools, Benjamin L. Corey and Shane Claiborne on social media.

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