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I remember when I went and bought my first Stihl 025 chainsaw, a smallish chainsaw with a 16' bar that I used to start thinning and clearing my 5 acre lot back in 1999 so I could start building my house. My dad and I would put up a lot of wood when I was a kid growing up in Michigan, dad always ran the saw. Having seen what a chainsaw could do to a human being  in "safety" photo's I had no great urge to run a chainsaw myself. So when the day came to run my saw for the first time I was thinking about kickback and steel toed boots and having pictures of gory things happening to various parts of my anatomy. Now I'm really good with an axe or a maul but I wasn't going to make a dent on my lot with an axe so I sucked it up and used the right tool for the job, a chainsaw.

I managed not to kill myself, I managed not to land a tree on my smooshy little body, or on my car, or on my wife. I did manage to make a big mess spruce trees hanging up on other spruce trees and my saw getting pinched in my back cut. It was ugly, but I got better. It is good to approach a tool like a chainsaw with a great deal of respect for its destructive force. I have other tools that have equal or greater destructive capacity.

I'll list those below the fold:

Okay, lets see:

I have hydraulic jacks; try dropping a house or a car on yourself sometime. I used to move houses and remember when an acquaintance who got between a steel H-beam and the ground in a fatal way. I know another guy who parked his car on his shoulder for a couple of hours (and lived). Jacks are dangerous and deserve respect, but they are essential for many jobs.

I have various space heaters. We've lost many people and buildings in our community to these devices. I get up at night and ensure that I have unplugged (again) any that I might have used to thaw out some plumbing or warm up an outbuilding (like my chicken coop or greenhouse). Living in Alaska would be really difficult without these things, but they are dangerous. I can't light one up or plug one in without thinking about the potential for fire that I may be setting up.

I have a pick-up truck. The lethal capacity of these things is incredible. This was brought home to me in a graphic manner on my first run with the ambulance. An elderly man chose the wrong pedal when he was in reverse and smashed his wife into the back of their garage. I knew this woman and I didn't realize who it was until I saw her pictures in her house while trying to console her husband. I still get jumpy when I hear an engine rev up around pedestrians. We need our trucks, a lot of us use them to get firewood and to haul our water tanks to supply our houses. Pick-ups are ubiquitous, they are a necessity and people forget how dangerous they are.

Basically, any power tool. Hello?

Finally, the reason for the diary. Guns. Guns are tools. They are particularly dangerous tools, in fact, they wouldn't be effective unless they were. They serve many very valid and important purposes even now. Pest control, protection against wild animals, feeding yourself (hunting), defending yourself against various potential miscreants, and target shooting and skeet shooting (yeah hobbies).

Now a mental exercise, are you afraid of chainsaws? Have you used one? How do you feel about them? Have you ever picked up a house with a hydraulic jack? Would you be comfortable doing something like that? I bet not. Isn't it natural that you would feel uncomfortable doing something you had never done before, especially if it seems inherently dangerous? Sure it is. Does that mean that hydraulic jacks aren't useful tools? Of course not. You don't attach a stigma to other tools (tools that maim and kill thousands of people every year). Chainsaws alone account for around 28,000 injuries a year.

What I am getting at is that you may not own a firearm. You may not be familiar with how they work or why people own them and what their motivations might be. After all you don't see a need to own one why should they? Do they think they are John Wayne or something (or Barney Fife)? No, chances are they don't. In my minds eye my firearms are right in the tool chest beside my chainsaws and hammers. The fact that they might make you nervous might have more to do with your psychology than with the reality of the situation. I'm suggesting that some people have allowed their lack of familiarity with firearms to elevate them to totem symbols of death and destruction. The firearm has climbed to a place were it's mere presence is an object of irrational terror. The same terror that I faced the first time I picked up my chainsaw, when I pick up my .44 magnum, or shoot my buddies .416 Rigby. What do I do?

I take a breath, go over my safety notes mentally. I reassure myself that I'm following all of the safety precautions necessary to operate the tool. I check and recheck to make myself sure. Then I use the tool being as careful as I possibly can, I try to relax and settle my irrational fears. How many people actually hurt themselves with a modern properly maintained and operated chainsaw? Actually very few. I set aside the images of gore that I have seen and know that I'm okay because I'm doing what I'm doing safely.

That's what I'm asking for here, a rational assessment of a scary class of tools that rightly makes us nervous. That many of us are unfamiliar with. De-totemize them, take away the power that we are filling them with through our fear. For me, I will always have a respect for the destructive capacity of guns, that is natural, but I will not fear them. We live in a country with a 2nd Amendment and we shouldn't let a tool, a piece of metal and plastic have the kind of power it has in this country. We have guns, we don't have to fear them.

Originally posted to 2dimeshift on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:06 AM PST.

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