Raise the Peace: Pastor Turns Weapons Into Garden Tools

MADISON, Wisconsin – When Jeff Wild uses 2,200 degree heat to forge guns into garden tools, he has to be careful when dipping the hot gun into water to cool it.

Working with a hollow piece of steel carries a higher risk of injury, he said, as the steam passes through the barrel.

But perhaps it is necessary when he converts what he called a “tool of violence” into an instrument that gives life – a dangerous energy leaves before a complete conversion.

“Fire can be destructive,” said Wild. “But fire can also be transformative.”

Wild, a 67-year-old retired pastor living in western Madison, recently told Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Time” that the public demonstrations he has organized are an act of protest against the armed violence.

His views on guns were most deeply shaped by the 10 funerals he presided over for men who committed suicide – six of them through the use of a gun.

“I knew these people. I mourned their deaths and I knew the implications and ramifications it had on their loved ones – spouses, children, extended family,” he said in an interview. “This, for me, really touched me deeply.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted 47,511 suicide deaths in 2019. About half of them involved guns.

In Wisconsin, guns were the most common method of suicide from 2013 to 2017, accounting for 49% of deaths. Ninety percent of those deaths were male, according to the Suicide in Wisconsin: Impact and Response report shared by the state’s Department of Health Services in September 2020.

Wild said these suicides are “often overlooked”, especially when compared to the attention paid to the killings.

Citing the figure that there are more guns in the United States than people, he said there were “just too many guns.”

To be clear, he said he was not calling on the authorities to go through people’s homes and take their weapons away from them. But he thinks there is room to encourage some to get rid of their guns, so there are fewer “lying around”.

His beliefs about guns were forged from funerals, but his inspiration for forging garden tools came from a book by Michael Martin and Shane Claiborne titled “Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence” .

Wild also quoted a Bible verse from the book of Isaiah: “And he shall judge among the nations, and rebuke many people; and they will turn their swords into plowshares, and their spears into plowshares; nation will not lift up sword against nation. , they will no longer learn war. “

Learning how to turn guns into garden tools, Wild said he could also benefit from his previous work experience – a few summers spent working in a foundry near where he grew up in Beaver Dam.

The ironwork fascinated him; how molten iron could be poured into molds to take its new shape. Items that were once firm, strong and strong are still malleable.

About two years ago, Wild bought his forge and took a blacksmithing course in Door County, The Cape Times reported. In the weeks after Thanksgiving this year, he held public forging demonstrations at James Madison Park and Wexford Park in Madison.

He said he decided to go public with his gardening tool gun making after the not guilty verdicts in Kenosha’s Kyle Rittenhouse case.

“I remember being surprised and disappointed with the verdict,” he said. “I understand that the jury decided it was self defense. I have come to the conclusion that self defense is a very subjective type of judgment, in my opinion.”

The gun control debate in the United States has been about as loaded as any other. Wild in interviews has mentioned his own history with guns.

As a child, he received a pellet gun as a gift. Later, upon his father’s death, Wild inherited a .22 caliber rifle and shotgun. Additionally, Wild said about 10 years ago that he ended up with several guns that had belonged to his stepfather.

He had amassed “a whole collection” of unused weapons in his basement, so he chose to give them to a responsible friend, he said.

He was hunting as a high school student and student, and he mentioned a hunter safety program he participated in through the National Rifle Association.

Wild sees the forge as a new angle in the debate. He said he could give others “a new way of thinking, and in some cases even a new way of living.”

“It’s much more effective for me to invite people to a demonstration, and (they can) see me make these changes and transformations,” he said. “And then being able to talk about guns to garden tools and our own transformation of our own hearts and minds.”

He also wants to rely on faith, drawing on his 34 years as a pastor in Racine, Janesville and Madison.

Wild hopes to expand its reach. He wants to help reduce gun deaths, and he’s open to invitations from advocacy groups and faith communities (those interested can email him at jtwildwi@gmail.com).

It is not an easy job, transforming weapons or minds. He is not able to put a weapon in his “little” gasoline forge once and hammer out its essence. It takes time, returning the material to the forge over and over again until it has softened and is ready to change.

But once the steam left the barrel and the shape of the gun changed, Wild said he was “forever amazed” when he held the finished product.

“Turning an instrument that could cause violence into a garden tool that produces food for people, myself, my family, as well as other people, is a very meaningful endeavor,” he said. .

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