The Beating Guns Tour

Tempe is Among 35 U.S. Cities Visited by the Beating Guns Tour to Turn Weapons into Farm Tools

Activist Shane Claiborne and Blacksmith Mike Martin Offer Ways to Heal the Gun Violence Epidemic

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On March 24th, the first anniversary of “March for Our Lives,” Dayspring UMC will observe Gun Violence Awareness Sunday. Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin, co-authors of “Beating Guns: Hope for a People Who Are Weary of Violence,” will speak at the 9:00 & 10:30am services, with the tour following at 2:00pm.

Claiborne with a new farm tool

America, a country in which mass shootings have become almost commonplace, is better at protecting guns than protecting people, say Shane Claiborne and Mike Martin in their new book Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence. Holding the shameful record for most gun deaths at about 38,000 per year, it’s clear that this country is in the midst of an epidemic. Bestselling author and activist Claiborne, and Martin, a Mennonite pastor turned blacksmith, offer a response to the crisis, transcending the rhetoric of “thoughts and prayers” with concrete ways to address the problem. “We have the audacity to believe that it is not the will of God for approximately 105 people to die from guns each day in the U.S.,” they say.

Martin at the forge

Inspired by the biblical prophets’ call to “beat swords into plowshares,” Claiborne and Martin are touring the country this spring with a forge and other blacksmithing tools. The Beating Guns Tour is a 90-minute event featuring music, art, and stories of people impacted by gun violence, culminating with an invitation for the audience to take the hammer and transform a gun into garden tools. The tour kicked off on March 9 in Philadelphia, stopping in more than 35 cities during the pre-Easter season of Lent, when many Christians reflect on the sanctity and gift of life. Claiborne and Martin have also launched the Disarming Network to help people connect with safe spaces to disable guns according to Federal ATF guidelines.

The tour stops in Tempe on March 24 at Dayspring United Methodist Church, 1365 E. Elliot Road, Tempe.  Relates Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, lead pastor at Dayspring, “My daughter Claire was a sixth grader when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred – the deadliest elementary school shooting – and a high school junior when the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history took place at Parkland. Her middle and high school years have been framed – and marred – by horrific gun violence. A generation of students going to school in fear, with lockdowns commonplace across the land. She reports that the sudden opening of a classroom door (usually a youth returning from the bathroom) can elicit anxiety on the part of student and teacher alike. Especially following a mass shooting.”

Claiborne and Martin build their case with a revealing overview of the history of guns and gun marketing in America, alarming statistics, and stories of devastated lives and restorative justice. They debunk common myths and offer ideas for common sense change. They address:

· Fear in America: Americans cling to their guns, ready to kill their neighbor at the slightest sense of fear. This has created a world in which a homeowner answers his door with a gun and shoots at a 14-year-old boy who stops to ask directions after missing his school bus.

· Corporate Accountability: The industry that creates one of the most dangerous products available enjoys total immunity when it comes to any responsibility for harm done.

· Millions of Guns in America: An average of just under 9.5 million guns are manufactured per year here—25,912 guns per day. Though there’s almost one gun per person in the U.S., only 32 percent of households have guns. “Some folks have a lot of guns.”

· Gun Capitalists: Businessmen invented the gun market, “making guns as commonplace as sewing machines.” The early gun empire families were motived by money and “moral agnosticism.”

· Forgotten Victims: An estimated 73,000 people per year are shot and survive, many of them injured in life-altering ways.

· The Changing NRA: Less than 5 percent of gun owners belong to the NRA. A recent survey found that 74 percent of NRA members support universal background checks on all gun sales, compared to 84 percent of guns owners in general and 90 percent of Americans.

· Gun Control Myths: The idea that any gun control measure will lead to all guns being taken is just one myth the authors debunk. “Banning semiautomatic weapons or high capacity magazines that allow guns to shoot one hundred rounds per minute does not lead to taking away hunting rifles or even a handgun purchased for self defense.”

Addressing the spiritual dimension of the problem, they point out that violence is not just about guns. As Christians who practice nonviolence, they believe “Christians can not carry a cross in one hand and a weapon in the other.” Rather, they “plot for peace,” engaging in the practice of de-escalation of everyday interaction. De-escalation of the small things helps keep the big events from happening.”

Tired of waiting for legislative action on common sense gun laws, Claiborne and Martin say “we will not wait on politicians to turn death into life.” The beauty of the prophets’ vision is that the people themselves transform their weapons: “Peace begins with the people of God, who refuse to kill and beat their weapons into farm tools. We will make violence extinct by refusing to kill.”

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne is a prominent speaker, activist, and best-selling author. Shane worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and founded The Simple Way in Philadelphia. He heads up Red Letter Christians, a movement of folks who are committed to living “as if Jesus meant the things he said.” His books include Jesus for President, Executing Grace, Red Letter Revolution, and his classic The Irresistible Revolution. He has been featured in a number of films including “Another World Is Possible” and “Ordinary Radicals.” Shane speaks over one hundred times a year, nationally and internationally. His work has appeared in Esquire, SPIN, Christianity Today, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been on everything from Fox News and Al Jazeera to CNN and NPR. He’s given academic lectures at Harvard, Princeton, Liberty, Duke, and Notre Dame.

Mike Martin

Mike Martin is the founder and executive director of RAWtools, which partners with communities in an effort to repurpose weapons for creative and productive uses. A former Mennonite pastor, Mike learned to blacksmith in order to turn guns into garden tools and is passionate about connecting people to nonviolent skills like restorative justice and conflict mediation. He is trained for restorative justice facilitation and encourages everyone to explore how they can connect to similar efforts in their community. Mike is licensed for specialized ministry in Mountain States Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA. He blogs at RAWtools.org. Beating Guns is his first book.