On a visit to Africa, social entrepreneur Peter Thum was struck by just how many young men and boys were armed with assault rifles. He launched Fonderie 47 in 2009 to take AK-47s from Africa and recycle them into beautiful jewelry and watches. His goal is to make African communities safer for aid and development.
“Assault rifles are collected from conflicts by the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, along with the United Nations, from combatants who have turned them over. Once these weapons are destroyed, the scrap metal, which belongs to the government, is recycled locally,” writes Fast Company‘s Gwen Moran.
To date, Fonderie 47 has taken over forty thousand guns out of circulation. In doing so, the company is making it harder to replace these weapons. “The replacement cost of those weapons is significantly higher than the cost of the original one,” Thum states. “We’re increasing the cost of killing people because we’re increasing the value necessary to have the same number of weapons in circulation.”
Mr. Thum wanted to launch a similar program to recycle illegal guns in the United States, so he talked to various city officials open to the idea. Liberty United, begun in 2013, partners with law enforcement agencies in New York and Pennsylvania, and proceeds support charities that reduce gun violence—including CeaseFirePennsylvania.
“You have this huge problem that is complicated, and many people think is impossible to do anything about,” he says. “Then you have a really interesting industry–the jewelry industry–that people spend billions and billions of dollars on every year to buy things. . . .We can take a percentage of that industry and transform it into focus on thinking about it, activism about it, and doing things about gun violence.”