If this were a Seinfeld routine, it would begin, "What's up with all the hammer stuff?"
But, unfortunately, this isn't about stand-up comedy or a beloved TV series about "nothing." Instead, it's about our strange local fixation on hammers as weapons.
It's as though writers of letters to the editor have taken up Pete Seeger's song: "If I had a hammer, / I'd hammer in the morning, / I'd hammer in the evening, / All over this land ... ."
In the past month, I've noted at least six letters to the editor which take up the, well, weighty subject of hammers as weapons, often comparing deaths-by-hammer to deaths-by-guns. Now, I agree with what the American psychologist Abraham Maslow is reputed to have said - "When the only tool you have is a hammer you tend to see every problem as a nail" - but the hammer vs. gun discussion strikes me as passing strange.
One of your letter writers cites the case of a Pennsylvania man killed by a hammer and goes on to write, "How many more of these senseless killings must we have before we the citizens rise up and demand the government enact some form of hammer control? Perhaps this person would be alive today if hammers were prohibited" (John Chesnut, "The liberal stranglehold," February 27).
Well, perhaps so, and we probably should take a look at regulating, restricting, and maybe even prohibiting a lot of things that kill people, and we do require safety inspections on cars, put warning labels on ladders, and do a lot of regulating, restricting, and prohibiting of tobacco products, drugs, and alcohol.
But it seems to me that hammers are mostly used for things like driving nails, pulling nails, driving wedges into firewood, and -occasionally - deconstructing the obsolescent cat tree. (I have splintered such cat trees, and it's quite satisfying!)
Guns, though, are used mostly to shoot things - targets, clay pigeons, wild game, our enemies in wartime, the police shooting it out with criminals, and, I suppose, gangs of armed intruders breaking into one's house.
But a lot of the things that get shot turn out to be little kids playing with a careless uncle's gun, innocent bystanders, children in schools, audiences in movie theaters, people attending their Congresswoman's constituent meet and greets, estranged partners in relationships gone wrong, and ourselves, either accidentally or by suicidal design.
Of course let's make hammers safer (and wrenches, toasters, baseball bats, and cordless drills!), but let's not make our concern for safe hammers distract us from doing something about guns, too.
Lawrence F. Bassett
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom