One Utah organization is hoping to prevent gun violence by turning donated guns into a tool with a gentler purpose: gardening.

The Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, in partnership with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, is asking people to donate unwanted guns at an event on June 11. As part of Gun Violence Awareness Prevention month, the local groups will dismantle the guns on-site and send them to Raw Tools in Colorado to be made into a gardening tool.

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Nancy Halden, who has been directing this event in Utah since 2019, says that it primarily caters to individuals who have been victims of gun violence, but anyone is welcome.

"We had our first event in 2019, but haven't had one the past two years due to COVID, but during the 2019 event, we had a lot of survivors of gun violence come — many were able to take a whack at the gun while it was on the forge being beaten into a useful tool," Halden said. "It was a very moving event. Everyone I talked to was very moved and it was especially cathartic to the people who lost someone to gun violence."

Halden, who has been working for gun violence prevention for the past decade, says that she often works alongside victims of gun violence — even some who have been in mass shooting situations.

"It's interesting that the mass shooting survivors I've talked to have said that it's all over in a minute," Halden said. "A couple of them were gun owners before the shootings and said, 'You think you're going to defend yourself. It happens so fast.' People have the idea that guns make them feel safer. They're not safer with that gun."

Halden said that this year's event will be one of 11 events of its kind nationwide, and the hope is to get people who have guns in their homes that are no longer in use, to think about not just surrendering them, but repurposing them into something useful.

"Our goal was never numbers; our goal was to get people to think about those guns that are hanging around their house that are no longer being used," Halden said.

"They become a liability for the family. If they get stolen, they become a liability for our police officers if they're on the street. A gun that is not being used is a liability. We want people to start thinking about this."

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This year's event will be done via drive-thru, and anyone who wants to turn in their guns is asked to put all unloaded guns into the trunk or back of their truck. Anyone who turns in a gun will be able to receive a gardening tool at a later date.

And while the event is primarily for gun owners, Halden said that it is open to the public, and she encourages people to stop by to see the gun dismantling process.

"We are trying to appeal to people to help them think about it in a different way — maybe, give up the gun," she said.

The event will be held Saturday, June 11, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Community of Grace Presbyterian Church on 2015 E. Newcastle Drive, in Sandy. More information can be found by going to the Gun Violence Prevention Center Utah Facebook Page.

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