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. -Isaiah 2:4

Esther Augsburger is using 3,000 guns for her symbol of hope. Wielding a blowtorch, she is heating guns, twisting their parts into recognizable but unusable shape, and turning them into a 16-foot plowshare to rest in downtown Washington, D.C.

"I'm thankful to be able to leave in this city of violence this one symbol of all that I believe," says Augsburger. For the 63-year-old sculptor, the artwork is a symbol of hope, since plows are used to prepare the soil for new life. And because Augsburger and her husband, Myron, are pacifists and Mennonites, they want this sculpture to be a symbol of a commitment to nonviolence and a statement against the deaths of inner-city youth. As many people are killed yearly in the District as are killed in the Israeli-occupied territories.

The idea for the project came to Augsburger a year-and-a-half ago while watching a televised news report of a two-week amnesty program sponsored by the city police department in which boots and gift certificates were handed out in exchange for weapons. Over 6,000 guns were turned in during a two-week period. Augsburger called the police department to ask if she could use half the guns for her project. The department enthusiastically agreed.

Next, Augsburger worked at obtaining permission from the D.C. city council and a recommendation from the city's Federal Commission of Fine Arts to install Guns into Plowshares. The proposed site for the statue is near the District's historic courthouse, close to both the main police building and the mayor's residence.

Though it has been rumored the ...

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