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With NRA In Town, Gun Control Advocates Speak Up

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The gun barrel buckled with each bang of the hammer.

Shareka Parrish-Wright pounded the molten metal. A feeling of relief, she said, swelled in her with each blow. She never thought a gun could be anything other than a gun. She certainly never thought she’d forge a rifle into a garden rake.

“It’s powerful,” she said.

Guns have loomed large in Parrish-Wright’s life.

She knows three people killed by gunfire in the past three years. Gunfire busted her car windshield earlier this year. And just this week, a 32-year-old man shot someone in the head just around the corner from her own home.

Parrish-Wright doesn’t keep guns in her home. And she’d like to see them all end up on an anvil, annealed and awaiting a new purpose, like the one she’s beating on at Avenue Plaza in downtown Louisville.

The gun is a donation and the anvil is owned by Mike Martin.

Martin, a blacksmith, travels the country turning guns into tools. He calls it a modern-day rendition of a Bible verse, in which believers are told to turn their swords into plowshares and fear no other.

He said gun advocates often say he’s “wasting a good tool.” And he may hear a lot of that this weekend: The National Rifle Association’s annual meeting is in Louisville.

Martin contends he’s turning a tool of destruction into one of creation. His display is one of several being organized this week by local advocacy groups promoting stronger gun control policies in the city during the NRA meeting.

Judy Morris is the justice promoter for the Dominican Sisters of Peace, a group sponsoring the various anti-gun walks, displays and gatherings. She said they’re not trying to eradicate guns. They are, however, calling for measured gun control, like stricter background checks and broader gun education.

“We need to find ways, together, to reduce gun violence in our country,” she said. “There’s no magic solution.”

Parrish-Wright is a little less measured about it. She said she believes the best way to reduce gun violence is to get the guns off the street -- period.

“Guns need to be able to die,” she said. “Everything else does.”

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.