Sparks flew as a grinder buzzed through the steel of an AK-47 assault rifle Monday morning in Colorado Springs.
About two dozen people braved temperatures in the teens to watch and cheer as 64-year-old Mike Warren presented his weapon for destruction.
The act, which happened shortly after 11 a.m. behind a warehouse near Interstate 25 and Colorado Avenue, put an end to what Warren called “a burden” he’s been carrying since just after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“I was afraid,” he said. “They were guarding my fishing hole for terrorists. I stashed it away and didn’t tell anybody about it.”
Warren, a fisherman and hunter who has no intention of disposing of his sporting weapons, said the “last straw” for his assault rifle “was the massacre of those children at Sandy Hook,” referring to the Dec. 14, 2012 killing of 20 first-graders and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
The former defense attorney employed the services of a recently formed nonprofit called RAWtools and partnered with the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission on Monday to launch “Guns-to-Garden Tools.”
The initiative gets its inspiration from The Bible, said Mike Martin, whose company RAWtools is being incorporated this week. Martin pointed to Isaiah 2:4, which states “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Warren’s weapon will be heated, reshaped and turned into a garden trowel, a cultivator and a weed puller, Martin said, noting that the “RAW” in the nonprofit’s name is “war” spelled backward.
The garden tools will be donated to Ranch Community Garden on the property of the Beth-El Mennonite Church in Colorado Springs.
Warren, a former infantry soldier, stressed that he is not an activist and did not want to make a political statement.
“That’s beyond my pay grade,” he said. “I speak for nobody but myself.”
The ceremony began with a rap performed by Mary Sprunger-Froese. The long-time friend of Warren warmed the crowd on the snowy morning with such lyrics as “transformation, transform the nation,” which had several people in the crowd joining the chant.
The event ended with Warren holding the severed assault rifle high in the air.
“Thank God I’m free of the damn thing,” he said.