Tools vs. weapons

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc — Twitter: @ Wanger­sky.

I was think­ing about fish­ing rods while I stood on a lad­der on a re­cent 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 imag­ine 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 re- gret­ted 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.

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