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Got an unwanted gun? Guns to Gardens Louisville wants to turn them into garden tools

A sculpture local blacksmith Craig Kaviar made from gun parts is featured on a stand. It shows the butt and stock of a rifle, which has been molded and curved, as well as two metal flowers rising alongside it.
Craig Kaviar
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Craig Kaviar
Local blacksmith and sculptor Craig Kaviar made this sculpture out of chopped up gun parts. He has partnered with Guns to Gardens Louisville to forge garden tools and other items, like this one, from weapons turned in by people who don't want them anymore.

This weekend’s “safe surrender” event welcomes people to bring guns they own but don’t want to keep. Later, a local blacksmith will forge them into tools, art and jewelry.

Soni Castleberry, who helped organize the event, said Guns to Gardens Louisville is patterned after similar initiatives in other cities.

There are different reasons why someone might want to get rid of a gun. It could be because they have children living in their home now, or they inherited a gun from a family member who died. Or perhaps their weapon was used in an accidental shooting.

“It’s not that they’re necessarily against guns. They just don’t want to have a gun that they currently have in their possession,” Castleberry said. “And they’re concerned that if they don’t have a safe way to dispose of that gun, that gun could possibly come into hands that might use it for something that would be destructive or take away a life.”

She noted that, for some people, this is a “hard choice.” There will be volunteers on Sunday with a background in counseling in case people would like to talk with someone about their decision.

Sunday’s safe surrender event will run from 2 p.m to 4 p.m. at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.

People are welcome to anonymously bring a gun they no longer want to the church. They don’t need to bring documents proving ownership. The Guns to Gardens group will just mark down the weapon’s serial number.

The weapon must be unloaded and placed in the trunk or backseat of their car, and skilled personnel will remove it and chop the gun up into pieces.

The resulting parts will be placed into tubs and then given to local blacksmith and sculptor Craig Kaviar, who will transform them into tools, like gardening hoes and other items later on. For example, he previously used gun parts to make a sculpture and some jewelry.

He said he uses gun barrels as the raw material for the tools.

“I heat up the metal in a coal forge. And I heat it up so that I can forge-weld it, which means I bring it up to a little bit over 3,000 degrees,” he said. “You get it up so it’s just about to melt, and you hammer it together and it becomes a solid piece again, which is what you have to do to turn it into a tool.”

Kaviar sees transforming guns into gardening implements as symbolic.

He referenced a Bible verse that says, “...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

“I think guns are terribly abused in our society,” Kaviar said. “I don’t really believe that people should be shooting each other under any circumstances.”

This is the second time Guns to Gardens Louisville has held this type of event.

Castleberry, who’s also part of an interfaith community group called the Gun Violence Prevention Team, said they “somewhat quietly” held their first safe surrender event last December, and people relinquished 28 guns. They hope more will be handed over this time.

Sunday’s event comes a couple months after Louisville experienced two mass shootings in a single week.

A man killed five people and wounded several others at an Old National Bank downtown on April 10. Then, on April 15, police say at least one person fired into a crowd at Chickasaw Park, killing two people and wounding four others.

In the wake of those tragedies and so many other shootings, Castleberry said the Guns to Gardens initiative gives her “a sense of being able to do something.”

“I personally wish we had, you know, far fewer guns,” she said. “I mean, when do we say, ‘We’ve made enough weapons in this country.’ When do we say we don’t need anymore?

“This feels like one step that I can take to help someone else that’s struggling with a decision about what to do with a weapon.”

Morgan is LPM's health reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.