Beating guns into plowshares accomplishes nothing

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All my life, I heard about “beating swords into plowshares.” It was supposed to be a metaphor for the warrior who puts war behind him for a peaceful life. I suspect sometimes, it wasn’t so metaphorical.

Regardless, it’s a phrase people use even today.

It seems there’s a retired pastor who is one of the people who prefers the old chestnut to be literal instead of metaphorical.

When Jeff Wild is using 2,200-degree heat to forge guns into garden tools, he needs to be careful when dunking the scalding gun in water to cool it off.

Working with a hollow piece of steel has a higher risk of injury, he said, because steam shoots through the barrel.

But maybe that’s necessary when converting what he called a “tool of violence” into an instrument that brings life — a dangerous energy departs before a full conversion.

Wild, a 67-year-old retired pastor living on Madison’s west side, said recently on WPR’s “Central Time” that the public forging demonstrations he’s held are an act of protest against gun violence.

I don’t care what Wild does with guns so long as he’s not breaking any laws.

But if he thinks he’s accomplishing anything other than making himself feel better, he’s deluding himself.

The report doesn’t say where he gets the guns, but one assumes he bought them or they’re given to him. He then takes the metal and turns it into garden tools.

But there’s no way Wild is doing this with enough guns to make a dent in the number of firearms floating around on the streets of Madison. There are hundreds upon hundreds of guns in criminal hands on the streets of pretty much any community you care to name. Each of those represents a potential for someone losing their life, but not the far more numerous guns in law-abiding citizens’ hands.

And I’ll bet money that Wild isn’t getting them from the bad guys. He’s not taking guns off the streets and melting them down to make hoes or rakes. He’s buying them from the law-abiding.

Then he beats them into these tools in what’s described as “an act of protest.”

But at the end of the day, all he’s really doing is making all of it about him. He’s making a spectacle of his own virtue, signaling that he’s anti-gun as he publicly beats the gun parts into something else, all while ignoring the thousands of ways he could be making an actual difference.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we mean by virtue signaling.

Again, Wild is free to do what he wants with his property. What he’s not free to do is go through life not having his willful self-delusion unquestioned.

He’s also free to hate guns. He’s free to think of them as the evilest things in the world. He’s welcome to believe whatever he wants, and he can most certainly turn those things he hates into gardening implements.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will remember that those who beat their swords into plowshares often end up plowing for those who don’t.