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'Spears into plowshares': Tulsa sees first 'Guns to Garden Tools' buyback event

Elizabeth Caldwell
Volunteer Gary Bennett works on a donated gun during a buyback event held Saturday at 7830 E. Admiral Place

A group of about 40 volunteers gathered in a northeast Tulsa parking lot Saturday for a gun buyback event with a twist.

Working in the sudden cold snap, blacksmiths and welders were onsite to begin repurposing the donated weapons. Rev. Chris Moore, board chair of Tulsa’s Metropolitan Ministry that helped organize the event, said the point is partially spiritual.

“You can hear in the background some mechanical noises going on. That’s a team of welders and blacksmiths who are taking the usable metal from those guns. We’ll take those, we’ll melt them down, and they actually end up becoming garden tools,” said Moore. “We’ll have a ceremony at some point in the future where we give those garden tools to victims of crime as a symbolic gesture. There’s a Biblical story, you know, there’s a turning spears into plowshares kind of effort here.”

Those who offered up their guns got $100 or $200 gift cards depending on what was donated.

The buyback was in City Councilor Crista Patrick’s district. She stressed the event wasn’t anti-gun, saying giving people options to offload weapons is good for everyone.

“I would say that most residents in District 3 own guns, and that’s not a bad thing. I own a gun. My husband owns guns. We’re not anti-gun. What we are is pro-gun safety. So getting the word out about safe gun usage, and giving people an opportunity to get rid of guns that are unwanted is really important. That way it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and have unforeseen consequences,” said Patrick.

According to data from the CDC compiled by EveryStat.org, Oklahoma has the 12th-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation and the 7th-highest gun suicide rate. About 12 people out of every 100,000 commit suicide by gun annually in Oklahoma.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.