Oakland's first Guns to Garden Tools a SUCCESS!
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s podcast “Learning from the Red Letters” introduced members of St. Paul’s Oakland to the movement to forge guns into garden tools, as called for in Isaiah 2: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares.”
Through Bishop Jim Curry, whose work is highlighted here, they learned of the national group Guns to Gardens. The church began working with them to create one of the many Guns to Gardens events that were scheduled across the nation on June 11th, which was also chosen as Guns to Gardens Day.
To prepare for June 11th, the Oakland Police Department worked with John Rogers, a local blacksmith, to forge 50 previously surrendered guns into garden tools. The handles were then attached by Orinda Boy Scout Troup 237 as a part of the Eagle Project of Preston Hawthorn, grandson of St. Paul’s member Paula Hawthorn. (Preston will be fondly remembered by Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in San Francisco, since he was one of the cutest babies to have been baptized there).
The tools were given to the first 50 people who turned in guns. In the future, all of the guns that were turned in will be forged into garden tools.
In addition to receiving garden tools, St. Paul’s Oakland wanted to provide some form of payment to those who turned in guns, but the Oakland Police Department did not have such a budget. The church became the center for raising the required funds.
Church member Vicki Larson designed a web page; the rector, the Rev. Dr. Mauricio Wilson, set up a special fund; and Paula Hawthorn made a quilt to give as a prize to a randomly-selected donor. Through these efforts, more than enough money was raised to fund the buyback.
The buyback event was held at At Thy Word Ministries in East Oakland, a church well-known to those who participate in Faith In Action – East Bay’s Friday Night Walks. In addition to being located in East Oakland, where there are many guns, the church has a flow-through parking for cars to enter with the guns in the trunk and where volunteers could administer an anonymous survey.
After that point, OPD could retrieve the guns, place a value on them, and give the people their gift cards and garden tools. People could then drive out, without getting out of their cars.
There were 26 volunteers from six different organizations, with the largest contingent from St. Paul’s Oakland.
The event was a great success! Participants lined up for hours to surrender firearms ranging from compact pistols to a “Tommy Gun” or submachine gun, as well as dozens of shotguns and rifles. One participant turned in over 20 firearms which included high-powered rifles, a Desert Eagle pistol, and an AK-47.
In total, 131 firearms were turned in, and 50 garden tools and over $10,000 in gift cards were given away.
St. Paul’s Oakland is happy this event turned out well, and we continue to see the need for additional buybacks. If you would like to join in this effort, please contact Paula Hawthorn at email@example.com.