Priest wants to make art, not guns

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | C&G Newspapers | Published June 28, 2024

 Episcopal Bishop Bonnie A. Perry blesses one of the six chop saws at the June 18 demonstration.

Episcopal Bishop Bonnie A. Perry blesses one of the six chop saws at the June 18 demonstration.

Photo provided by St. David’s Episcopal Church

 Father Chris Yaw, rector of St. David’s, announced the 2024 gun buyback dates at the event.

Father Chris Yaw, rector of St. David’s, announced the 2024 gun buyback dates at the event.

Photo provided by St. David’s Episcopal Church


SOUTHFIELD/ROCHESTER HILLS — Father Chris Yaw, the rector at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Southfield, said he wants to make art, not guns.

“It’s a lot easier to buy a gun in this country than it is to get rid of one, and that’s what we kind of battle, if you will, is that there’s no exit strategy for these things. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to destroy the firearms on-site with high-powered chop saws, and then we are going to use the gun parts to make objects of art with donors who will have an opportunity to get a gift card. They can get art objects made to those gun parts as a ‘thank you,’” Yaw said.

He added that attendees of the gun buybacks would be given gift cards of $200 in exchange for assault rifles, $100 for handguns, and $50 for shotguns and rifles. Attendees also have the opportunity to make artwork such as rosaries, crosses, jewelry and keychains themselves at the “Guns and Crafts” tent. Yaw described the gun demolition presentations as “events of unity, creativity and connection with our communities amidst this terrible plague of gun violence.” This event comes just a few months after the New York Times investigation featuring Yaw revealed that the guns collected at buybacks in Flint and Southfield were not destroyed but were instead recycled and resold.

The first of the gun destruction demonstrations took place June 18 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Southfield, with a blessing of the chop saws, just days after two mass shootings in Oakland County — in Lathrup Village and Rochester Hills — and a shooting in Detroit.

The Lathrup Village Police Department responded to a call at approximately 12:20 a.m. June 15 for a shooting with six victims at a house party in the 17000 block of Margate Avenue. The suspect has not been arrested yet. Later that same day, in Rochester Hills, 42-year-old Michael William Nash opened fire at the splash pad at 5 p.m., firing 36 rounds and injuring nine people from the ages of 4 to 78 before fleeing the scene and shortly after was found dead in his Shelby Township mobile home from a reported self-inflicted gunshot wound. A motive has yet to be identified by police.

On the same day in Detroit, one woman was killed and four people were injured from an act of gun violence, and the suspect has not been arrested yet.

Three days later, the gun destruction event drew in a crowd of 20-30 local clergy in orange for Gun Violence Awareness Month. Bishop Bonnie Perry from the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan did a blessing of the six chop saws at the event, which will be used at six more gun buyback destruction demonstration events across metro Detroit this year in partnership with the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and other local churches:

• July 13, St. David’s, 16200 W. 12 Mile Road in Southfield, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Aug. 3, Nativity Episcopal Church, 21220 W. 14 Mile Road in Bloomfield Township, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Aug. 24, Church of the Messiah, 231 E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Sept. 28, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 71 W. Pike St. in Pontiac, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Oct. 5, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 5301 Hatchery Road in Waterford, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Nov. 9, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, 1679 Broadway in Ann Arbor, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Yaw did a demonstration at the event using one of the chop saws.

“They’re really high-powered for this purpose. They cut rebar, they cut high-density pipe, and as a result, they really don’t shed a lot of sparks. You can actually handle the metal right afterward; the metal doesn’t really get hot, so you can take them into the guns and crafts place immediately and make artwork out of them.”

Yaw added that destroying the guns on-site is possible because they do not technically take charge of the weapon. The owner of the gun is present throughout the entirety of the destruction of the weapon.

“These events will not only meet important social needs like safety and community building,” Marcia Gershenson, Oakland County commissioner, stated in a press release, “but the act of transforming weapons used for harm into something beautiful testifies to our ability to change and transform our societies.”

Karen Reynolds, a Moms Demand Action Leader, who has been a Rochester Hills resident since 1983, was also in attendance at the event. Moms Demand Action is a national organization that fights for public safety measures and policies to protect people from gun violence throughout the United States. Reynolds joined Moms Demand Action’s North Oakland group after a friend from church inspired her to get involved, but following the Oxford shooting in 2021, Reynolds upped her involvement. Now, she’s done everything from marching to appearing in articles and placing ribbons around downtown Rochester for gun violence awareness in June. As a longtime Rochester Hills resident, she said, “It’s heartbreaking, truly, truly heartbreaking. And every chance I’ve had to talk about this in the last week and a half since the shooting happened at the splash pad, I just go off on my soapbox, because the more people understand about this, the more upset they can be that they can work towards a solution reducing gun violence is the goal. We don’t have to use a gun to solve every problem in the world. It’s not appropriate. I have no problem with guns that are used for hunting. Responsible gun use is what Moms is all about.”

Reynolds is also a member of End Gun Violence Michigan, an anti-gun violence group with the mission to “pass common sense gun violence prevention laws in Michigan that will save lives.”

Reynolds believes that a response to gun violence is necessary.

“Prayers help, but we just all have to get involved and do whatever each person can to reduce gun violence,” she said. “There’s so many marches going on around the state this month. Let people know that using guns for violence is not acceptable. It was kind of amazing to me that, yes, there were three events last weekend, including the one in Rochester, but the one in Rochester, because we are a fairly white community, was the only one that made the national news. Too often, the Black and brown community is just excluded from the news, and they are the ones that are suffering even worse than us, and I’m heartbroken. How much more heartbroken are the other communities?”

For more information on St. David’s gun buybacks, visit

To learn more about Moms Demand Action, visit

To learn more about End Gun Violence Michigan, visit