State College

RAWtools transforms gun parts into garden tools

From guns to garden tools: group repurposes weapons

RAWtools, which turns guns into garden tools, came to Penn State as part of an event on Thursday.
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RAWtools, which turns guns into garden tools, came to Penn State as part of an event on Thursday.

Metaphors are hard work.

Outside of the Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State graduate student Maddie Weiss was busy hammering out peace. Actually, it was a fragment of high quality gun metal, which was resisting an assault of high heat and blunt force the way that high quality gunmetal probably should.

The supervising blacksmiths standing nearby were with RAWtools, an organization based out of Colorado Springs that collects and repurposes weapons into garden implements.

Not far from where Weiss was still swinging away, a table displayed some of the remnants of that crusade, a ruggedly handsome lineup that included a mattock with a head forged from an AR-15 and a small shovel that still showed signs of its former life as a shotgun barrel.

“They’re creating something tangible,” Weiss said.

She has an abiding interest in organizations that support non-violent peace making and arrived on the scene after a classmate involved with the campus’ Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration committee gave her a heads up.

All week, the group has been orchestrating activities to honor the civil rights icon, including Monday’s day of service, which netted a record high of more than 200 volunteers.

“I enjoy everything related to this week because it’s so meaningful,” Abdul Al-Kaf, a Penn State junior who sits on the MLK Commemoration Committee, said.

The Al-Kaf and the other nine members worked with 3rd Way Collective to bring RAWtools to campus.

Executive director Mike Martin was standing a couple of steps away from where Weiss and other students were taking turns with the hammer. He founded the organization just a few months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

Their efforts have been so well received that finished tools are on backorder until March, at the earliest. Each of the mattocks and shovels can be traced back to the original story behind the gun from which it originated.

“Gun violence often speaks from a variety of issues,” Martin said.

He believed that the peaceful mission of RAWtools fit perfectly into the weeklong celebration at Penn State.

“We feel like we’re following very much in the theme of what Martin Luther King is about,” Martin said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready