I remember sending my children off to school each morning. They had to cross a busy street both ways and I worried about traffic. “Be careful,” I told them, “watch out for cars.”
We could hold “Genesis 50:20 Sundays,” with local police and other First Responders on hand to take the weapons and store them safely.
My children now worry about their children and cars on the way to school, too, but they also worry about something I never considered until the late 1990’s, when our youngest were in high school: guns.
As I write this column, the news out of Minnesota is about a young man who had spent months planning a school massacre, building bombs and buying and stockpiling guns and ammunition. Only a nosy neighbor, calling the police because something about the young man hanging around a storage shed near her home seemed suspicious, appears to have prevented the carnage.
Where is the church as our nation turns into an armory and an abattoir?
I have a proposal and I would like to thank Diane Dimond and her article, “Where Guns Go to Die,” for the idea.
She writes about places where confiscated and turned-in guns are melted down and used for other purposes. She writes of: “’No Questions Asked’ neighborhood collection and buy-back drives,” where guns are being taken and destroyed. “They’re literally shredded in huge metal-chomping machines called ‘alligators’ with a jaw power of 200 tons of cutting force. The weapons are pulverized into small pieces of scrap metal and sold for about 25 cents per pound.
At foundries and smelters across America, armed police guards are arriving with tens of thousands of pounds of confiscated weapons and they stand by to make sure they are completely destroyed.
The guns are subjected to temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees for as long as it takes to make them liquid again.
This death sentence for guns means life for more practical items. Some of the melted metal is used to make chain-link, pipes or manhole covers. In Southington, Conn., there is just such a sewer cover that declares in raised metal lettering that it was ‘Made from 172 pounds of your confiscated guns.’
In Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., the TAMCO Steel foundry has been melting down guns for years. They call the program ‘Project Isaiah,’ named for the biblical passage about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. One TAMCO official put the project’s goals into a modern version: ‘We shall melt their guns into rebar and build a community for all to live in peace and harmony.’
The rebar fashioned out of the 12,000 guns TAMCO melted into uselessness helped build, among other structures, the Staples Center and the New York, New York Casino in Las Vegas. They also used it to repair the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco and various earthquake-damaged freeways.
I didn’t know that businesses like TAMCO existed, able and willing to make some good use of the guns that fill our streets and kill our neighbors. Now I do know, and I know, as well, that the American Catholic Church needs to join with other churches in our own “Isaiah Project.” I’d like to call it “The Genesis 50:20 Project,” from the verse where Joseph, betrayed by his brothers, enslaved and unjustly imprisoned, says to his brothers years later, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
We could hold “Genesis 50:20 Sundays,” with local police and other First Responders on hand to take the weapons and store them safely. We could contact and then contract with one of the foundries that melts firearms. We could turn the metal into crucifixes, for Catholics and Orthodox, and plain crosses, for Protestants and Non-Denominationals, and distribute them across the land with the message, “What men meant for evil, God meant for good.”
We could include with each crucifix and cross a story of its origin. Like the cross of old, whose only role was death, these guns have been hammered into something life-giving, something useful, a sign and symbol of peace. They stand for the One who, in Father James Burtchaell’s words, “stubbornly refused to hate, to return evil for evil.”
If you read The Catholic Catalogue, please share this post with friends and family and parish. Put The Genesis 50:20 Project on the agenda for an upcoming Parish Council meeting. Talk to your pastor, and write to your bishop. Let people in episcopal office know that the “seamless garment” of which Cardinal Bernadine spoke must be the Church’s garment.
The Catholic Church has spoken prophetically about the humanity of the unborn, the elderly and the disabled. We have worked, and continue to work, to insure that meaning of one’s humanity is not determined by one’s economic utility.
Now we have to enter this struggle, to melt the swords of our day into plowshares. And sewer covers. And rebar for new buildings. And struts for bridges. And crosses and crucifixes. Whatever was meant for evil, we can, and must, mean for good.
– Melissa Musick