Tools vs. weapons
I was thinking about fishing rods while I stood on a ladder on Sunday, working on the house. I was trimming out an upstairs window, my shirt dusted with pine sawdust and the air full of pine, as well.
There is something wonderful about cutting trim, and about installing clapboard or wood shingles, a kind of mathematical brainwork that’s different from my everyday work, that makes an afternoon of work singularly refreshing. That, and thinking about fishing rods.
Well, actually, I wasn’t thinking about fishing rods. Just one particular fishing rod.
A couple of months ago, police in St. John’s responded to a gun call and evacuated a building after a report of a man carrying a rifle.
Turned out that the call was a false alarm. In the early part of the trout season, police say the man was most likely headed towards a nearby river, carrying a fishing rod. There had been other sightings of a desperado rod-slinger in the area, apparently.
Still mulling that over, I came down the ladder and went back into the shed to cut some more trim.
It is theoretically possible, I supposed, in a fit of rage, to beat someone to death with a fishing rod.
Just like it is theoretically possible to cut off your finger while using a handsaw and a mitre block to cut trim. It is definitely possible. But extremely unlikely, given the time and suffering it would take to saw through the bone. Chances are, you’d stop with the first pull of the blade.
It is, however, extremely possible to cut off your finger using an electric mitre saw or a table saw. Every time I use a power saw, I think about that carefully. I know at least four people who have lost fractions of digit or whole digits to saws. I’ve only seen the healed after- effects. Watching my table saw lurch powerfully with the simple flick of the on/ off switch, it’s easy to imagine seeing a fingertip, cut just below the first knuckle, bouncing away into the loose sawdust like a castaway triangle of cut trim. Easy to im- agine the gore that follows.
Back in 2011, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System suggested there were more than 46,000 injuries from those types of saws in a single year in the United States.
Probably, no one — or at least, very few people — actually meant to saw themselves. Saws don’t saw people — isn’t that how the exculpatory mantra goes? No, people saw people.
The difference in the saw debate is that mitre saws and table saws are quite simply far faster, more efficient cutting tools, the way an assault rifle is a faster, more efficient killing tool.
You decide to bring the mitre saw blade down on whatever it is that’s under it, and it’s done. Pull the trigger on a gun? Same thing.
I got frustrated on Sunday, and in that instant of frustration, threw my hammer. I regretted it the moment it left my hand, but regrets are the just desserts of temper. I’m not proud of it — I’d like to blame the nails involved, but that would just be making excuses. I like to think that I’ll never be so frustrated and careless around a running saw.
Saws? They are valuable tools, treated right. They do what they were designed to do. And guns? They do that, too. Do I expect to change any gun debate minds? No.
But I am glad to live in a part of the world where a fishing rod might be considered the biggest threat of the day.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @Wangersky.