“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will train for war no more.
Everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree.
No one shall make them afraid.”
Our Share the Plate offering for September is for RAWtools, a nonprofit started in 2013 by Mike Martin of Colorado Springs.
In the book Beating Guns, co-authored with Shane Claiborne, Mike tells this story:
One of my friends was a gun owner who began to question why we have assault rifles on our streets. He owned a number of guns, and one of them was an AK-47. After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hood Elementary, which claimed the lives of twenty kids and six adults, he donated the AK-47 so that it could be destroyed and repurposed. My father and I met with a blacksmith and learned how to create garden tools from that AK-47, and RAWtools was born. Five years later he donated his handgun.
Do you know why the nonprofit is called RAWtools? RAW is WAR turned around. There is much more to RAWtools than turning firearms into tools or beautiful things. RAWtools works with other organizations to prevent gun violence and armed conflict, to “disarm people’s hearts, restore peace and cultivate justice.” According to the website, “We offer resources, skills, and practices to handle conflict in creative ways, both as violence prevention and as healing processes after violence occurs.... RAWpower Workshops: Tools for a Third Way” can include: Restorative Justice, De-Escalation, Bystander Intervention, Circle Process, Open Dialogue, and Mental Health First Aid.”
On September 9, Mike Martin will manage a safe surrender in Plymouth’s parking lot. The evening before, September 8, Mike will speak to us about the work of RAWtools. We have also invited other groups involved in some aspects of gun violence prevention: Adam Shore, Executive Director of Colorado Ceasefire, will tell us about their advocacy and about the revised Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation in Colorado; Scott Smith, Executive Director of the Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer County, will explain their work locally (did you know that most lives lost in Colorado to gun violence are suicides?); and Matt Wetenkamp of the University of Colorado Anschutz Firearms and Injury Prevention Initiative group will speak to us about the important work being done there in research and firearm injury prevention. Matt is a gun owner and veteran.
Societal efforts to curtail gun violence in this country are growing, and in that growth, groups are learning the importance of cooperation and collaboration between partners in these efforts. As a church community, Plymouth is being supported in holding our September events by the United Church of Christ national organization, by the Longmont United Church of Christ, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, and Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins.
Thanks to those of you who have volunteered to help with these two events. If you have not signed up and still wish to help or donate, please contact me using the form on this page (which goes to me). Everyone can help by spreading the word to friends, acquaintances and relatives about the community event and about the opportunity to safely relieve themselves and their homes from unwanted firearms by contributing them for transformation on September 9 between 10am and noon.
Thanks for all that you do to make the world a better place.
As a person who loves to agonize, I sometimes want to scream. “What is it you don’t understand about the ‘Thou shall not kill’ commandment"? I’m also a person who loves to analyze, so I get that the translation should probably be "Thou shall not murder." I also understand that, in order for an organic entity to live, another organic entity must die. I include plants in that tenet, by the way.
My scream would be directed at those who favor mass possession of guns. Exactly what is a “gun”?
a weapon incorporating a metal tube from which bullets, shells, or other missiles are propelled by explosive force, typically making a characteristic loud, sharp noise.
Sounds pretty innocuous. But what is a “weapon”?
a thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage
Ah. As Shakespeare noted, there’s the rub.
According to TRACE, a website devoted to “investigating gun violence in America,” approximately 465 million guns have been produced in the United States since 1899. Assuming a 1% attrition rate per year, there would be about 352 million guns in circulation. That’s more than people. These statistics are elusive because research in this area has been strongly opposed by the gun lobby.
It's a dilemma. Gun violence in our country increasingly has become a public issue. Although the second amendment of our constitution includes the words “militia” and “arms,” the word “gun” is not present in that text. The intention of the second amendment seems clear; yet clarity seems lacking in the means by which this public right is to be protected. Since late December of 1791, a number of the factors which created the impetus for this amendment have changed. Enormous improvements have been made in the technology of weaponry. Threats to national security are much broader than face-to-face encounters between individuals or groups of citizens and our adversaries.
So why do we need so many guns in the United States? Guns are plentiful, relatively easy to obtain and use. But many people use guns to solve problems that could and should be solved by peaceful methods. The website for RAWtools includes this paragraph:
“With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the people of the US own nearly half the world’s guns. America also holds the record for the most gun deaths—homicide, suicide, and accidental gun deaths—at around ninety a day and about thirty-three thousand per year. Some people say it’s a heart problem. Others say it’s a gun problem. The authors of Beating Guns believe it’s both.”
This is what I believe. It is the impetus behind Plymouth’s decision to collaborate with Longmont UCC, Moms Demand Action, and several other groups to help develop a larger community of people in two events on September 8 and 9. On September 8, we will host RAWtools and other groups working toward gun safety and ending gun violence in an evening of thoughtful reflection and celebration of life. The next morning, September 9, Plymouth will be the site of a practical opportunity for safe surrender of guns, those that are unwanted and/or unusable, by members of our community.
May we find safer, better paths.
This Saturday, This Week, This Month
From the Moms Demand Action FC group:
Personal testimony from Anne:
My only personal experiences with suicide were associated with my brother Danny’s murder in 1986. James, the mentally unstable brother-in-law who shot him, took his own life a few days later. In the following years, Danny’s severely injured wife and his oldest son attempted suicide. James’ mother and sister both took their own lives. Perhaps this was an extraordinary situation, but it emphasized for me that suicide is not an end to tragedy; rather it almost always creates more tragedy. Even for someone who has committed a crime, it takes away the opportunity for redemption.
Please consider joining the Out of the Darkness Walk on Sunday (9/11), above. Also consider making a contribution through the website(s) given above.
Anne Thompson, Ending Gun Violence Team
The local FoCo Moms Demand Action is working hard toward prevention with its Be Smart activities, speaking to community members about how secure firearm storage reduces suicide deaths tne unintentional shootings while increasing safety in schools and home.
Safe gun storage is prevention. Colorado’s Red Flag law is prevention. Tuesday, August 23, 6:30 p.m., you are invited to attend a presentation to learn more about the new CO Extreme Risk Protection Order (Red Flag Law), presented by CO Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence (CFCU) and Colorado Ceasefire. You can attend in person at Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 E. Stuart St., or attend via Zoom. Please register at this link to attend in person or virtually: August 23 Event Registration.
Voting for Gun Sense Candidates is prevention. Saturday, August 27, 1:00-2:30 pm, join us for a very important Fort Collins Moms Demand Action chapter meeting. This month we'll be hosting our local Gun Sense Candidates for a discussion on current gun violence related issues, as well as what they plan to do moving forward with regards to gun sense legislation. Among those speaking will be Congressional Representative Joe Neguse, and State Representatives Cathy Kipp, Andrew Boesenecker, and Judy Amabile. Register HERE so we know you are coming! (Feel free to invite interested friends and other community members. Please have them register at the same link.)
An excellent research-based article with suggestions for addressing America’s gun violence crisis appeared this week in a publication from the Brookings Institution. Addressing the root causes of gun violence is prevention.
Here is part of the conclusion:
“At the end of 2021, cities and counties had budgeted only 40% of their total ARP allocation (82% of the first of two funding tranches). While more money has been budgeted this year, there is still plenty of funding left to be allocated prior to the 2024 deadline and spent prior to the 2026 deadline. It is vital that state and local leaders seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in community-based violence prevention efforts now, as these programs can take time to establish roots at the local level and scale up.
By investing in critical community safety infrastructure before the next rise in gun violence, communities will be better supported and equipped to avoid such violence, while also averting the intergenerational consequences that accompany punitive responses to it. As Devanshi Patel of Virginia’s Center for Youth and Family Advocacy said, it is imperative to invest in “restorative justice and community-based programming now to help kids stay out of the legal system” because system-involvement and incarceration can create harms for people and communities that are felt for generations.”
A couple of days ago, National Public Radio featured an article about the need for gun violence research, which has been curtailed over the past twenty years by the Dickey Amendment. “Efforts to understand gun violence have received almost no funding in recent decades, a reality that's due to a specific amendment backed by the National Rifle Association.” Research is key to gun violence prevention.
Perhaps our culture needs to look at gun violence through eyes that focus on prevention more than punishment.
Event details below or click: August 27 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm at Our Savior’s Church on Lemay Avenue
All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
Suddenly . . .
There’s a shadow hanging over me....
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.”
Although these lyrics, famously written by a young Paul McCartney, refer to the loss of a romantic love relationship, they might evoke a more universal angst for many people.
Like survivors of gun violence.
The 10-year anniversary of the Aurora movie theater shooting happened on July 30, 2022. Ten years ago, a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and wounding 70 people. At the time, it was one of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history and sparked familiar conversations about gun control and mental health. A decade later that massacre continues to take a daily toll on both individuals and the community. Local and national media acknowledged this grim anniversary, often with statements from survivors. Here are a couple from the PBS story.
“I live in a place at a space where I remember it every day.”
– Colorado State Rep. Tom Sullivan,
whose son died instantly from a gunshot wound.
“I feel unsafe.
Like, that’s the best way to describe it – I never feel safe.
I always felt guilty about surviving.
I felt like . . . because I walked out.
And one of my co-workers didn’t.
I didn’t really start talking about this until two years ago.”
– Jenalise Long, who was present at the theater, but unharmed.
I listened to a young woman survivor describe her emotional state something like this - “a hole in the heart – one that opens up every time there is a Charleston or Buffalo or Uvalde.” I can identify with her grief.
According to Dr. Arash Javanbakht, who studies trauma from mass shootings, there are as many ways for survivors to deal with the trauma as there are survivors.
Ten years is a lot of yesterdays for the survivors of the Aurora tragedy.
Some survivors turn to activism, like Rep Tom Sullivan of the 37th Congressional District in Arapahoe County. The Coloradoan ran a story about Zach Golditch, a former NFL player now working as a firefighter in Denver and getting involved in efforts to support victims from Aurora and other mass shootings across the country
Perhaps the most important way we can help survivors of gun violence is to help the activists and to stand up for those too traumatized to speak. Voters will be able to have their voices heard in November.
Please join the Moms Demand Action Fort Collins group on August 27 to hear from some Gun Sense Candidates – those who support legislation that helps make our community safer. The meeting will be held at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 2000 S Lemay Avenue, from 1pm until 2:30pm. Among those speaking will be Congressional Representative Joe Neguse, and State Representatives Cathy Kipp, Andrew Boesenecker, and Judy Amabile.
If you wish to help with refreshments that will be served toward the end of the meeting, please contact me using the form at the bottom of this page, and I will put you in touch with the Moms Demand Action FC leader who is coordinating.
Anne Thompson, Ending Gun Violence
Good afternoon. After a tough 4th of July for those of us who are concerned about the prevalence and increasing frequency of gun violence in our nation, I wanted to share an article from the New York Times. Here is a summary:
One of the main barriers to substantive expansion of gun regulation, both at the federal and local levels, is the strength and durability of American gun culture. Francisco Cantú, a former Border Patrol agent, grew up immersed in this world, and writes in a guest essay for Times Opinion that it’s built on “our most durable myth, the exceptionalist notion that a man with a gun is a force powerful enough to defend against any danger.”
There is reason for hope in the federal legislation recently passed by Congress – the first in decades. But the July 4th tragedy in Highland Park, Illinois, reveals that the legislation is not enough. How can Congress be convinced?
In addition to rallies, letters and financial support for organizations that focus on ending gun violence, we can work to see that our local governmental entities pass ordinances that help protect the public from gun violence incidents. The local Moms Demand Action group, with whom we collaborate, is working, along with other groups such as Colorado Ceasefire toward such actions. At the June 7 Fort Collins City Council meeting, a dozen or so members of the Moms group and other citizens, encouraged the Council to seriously consider and adopt ordinances similar to those recently passed in Boulder and several other municipalities in Boulder County. During the next couple of months, individuals in the movements to prevent gun violence will approach Larimer County Commissioners to consider options at the county level. We are fortunate to live in Colorado where some sensible measures are already in place.
What can YOU do? Here are a few ways:
Over the past six weeks, gun violence had devastated an elementary school of innocent children, a grocery store of racial minority shoppers, a medical center of staff and patients, and a parade of families watching a community parade. Texas, New York, Illinois, Oklahoma. According to the Washington Post, over 300 mass shootings (4 or more individuals shot) have occurred so far in 2022.
As members of Plymouth, we have the potential to help bring about change. Let’s sustain the efforts.
Ending Gun Violence Ministry Team