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Event aims at forging new gun attitudes

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    Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, watches as Fred Martin, left, and his son Mike Martin cut up a shotgun that was owned by her first husband, Dale Stone. Mr. Stone was killed in a robbery in 1973.

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  • n1guns-3

    Fred Martin pounds out a shovel made from a shotgun barrel during a Guns to Gardens event at the University Church.

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  • n1gun-1

    A .22 gun barrel is heated in a forge to be made into a shovel, the modern equivalent of beating swords into plowshares.

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Sparks flew from a shotgun Saturday at a church garden in South Toledo.

But no shots were fired.

The shotgun sparked as Mike Martin used a rotary saw to chop it up before forging it into a hand spade.

The demonstration was a highlight of a public event at University Church, 4747 Hill Ave. Called Guns to Gardens — A Creative Response to Gun Violence, its sponsors included representatives of Toledo Mennonite Church, University Church, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, and RAWtools Inc., a Colorado Springs nonprofit group.

Mr. Martin, 34, of the Colorado Springs group, said the demonstration was a way to address the gun violence issue in a way that isn’t polarizing.

“Turning this particular weapon and this event into a tool for good educates people that they can be part of the solution,” said Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

The shotgun used to belong to Dale Stone of Toledo, who was killed in 1973 during a store robbery at South Avenue and Broadway Street. Mr. Stone, Ms. Hoover’s first husband, had lent his shotgun to a co-worker, and she obtained it for the demonstration.

Rowan Kerr, 15, of Whitehouse, Ohio, a sophomore at the Maumee Country Day School, said the event was “a great way to talk to people about peace and the community in the area and against violence and hate,” adding that he thinks “it’s important for everyone to have a community that would be standing together against violence.”

Young Kerr was one of about 80 people attending the three-hour event, which also featured speeches by participants, information booths provided by the coalition, and peace-themed arts and crafts for children. Musical entertainment was by a local bluegrass band.

Alfonso Mack, 22, of Bowling Green, agreed with the boy.

“When you think about the prevalence of gun violence in our country, an event like this takes the focus from violence to peace,” the Bowling Green State University graduate student of school counseling said. “And it gives everyone a perspective on how guns can be used for something positive.”

Sam Melden, event co-organizer, said he and Joel Shenk, pastor at Toledo Mennonite Church, had jointly come up with an idea to have a public event feature the forging demonstration. Mr. Melden said the idea came to them as they tried to find “a creative way to bring about a good conversation about gun violence before a major tragedy happens around here and to bring in people so they can get new information about gun violence and about gun laws in the state of Ohio.”

“It’s symbolic,” Mr. Melden said of the forging of the hand spade. “But it is very applicable ... And we are definitely interested in this kind of thing catching on in the community.”

There have been 20 gunshot homicides in the Toledo metro area this year, according to Blade records.

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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