Thoughts on GunsAs a responsible gun owner,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Thoughts on Guns

As a responsible gun owner, I deplore the tragedies recorded daily in your paper from misuse of weapons. However, I take issue with your Oct. 11 editorial, "Guns: A Health and Moral Issue."

When a child is abused (an issue just as reprehensible as weapon misuse), we do not penalize all parents of children; instead we hold the perpetrators of the act responsible. This same attitude needs to be focused on the gun problem.

Hold the person accountable for any weapons misuse -- an alleged murderer in Parkville used a sword. To do less is a travesty of justice and serves to dilute the public's indignation against the individual who committed the crime.

Wholesale condemnation of an inanimate object (a handgun) with its concomitant emotional rhetoric diverts the public's attention from the criminal justice system, which is supposed to deal with people who have misused weapons. Its inefficiency is being obscured behind the emotional smoke screen of gun control.

Maryland currently has a waiting period law preventing handgun purchase prior to a State Police background check. Handguns may not be carried without a permit which is restrictive, expensive and difficult to obtain.

It goes without saying that laws prohibiting misuse of weapons already exist at local, state and federal level. Should we dilute our efforts further with additional legislation that will be emotionally debated, or would it be more productive to exert our energies into effectively enforcing and prosecuting offenders of laws already on the books?

Most gun owners I know are fanatical about safety and proper weapon use. They obey all laws and believe that gun control means holding the weapon steady while aiming at proper targets. Are these the people who need more gun legislation?

All reasonable people would join the Hopkins doctors in their condemnation of weapon misuse that harms children.

However, I feel their view is myopic and treats the symptom rather than the causes: a deteriorating value system and family structure, the media's influence and how effective our present criminal justice system is as a deterrent.

In my opinion, we need to look at the big picture of crime itself, not just the narrow issue of handgun control.

David L. Helm

Baltimore

Enough Laws

With the current blitz of anti-gun editorials The Sun is apparently renewing its mission to make it more difficult for the legitimate gun owner to posses firearms while doing little to stop the spread of crime in the region.

Maryland has in effect numerous laws pertaining to the purchase, sale, possession and use of guns. These laws have not deterred the criminal element, yet The Sun continues to push for more statewide laws which will cost every taxpayer more money to implement just so criminals will have another law to laugh at.

Your efforts, while laudable, are to most responsible gun owners very misguided. When the problem of drunk drivers got out of hand, the state did not attempt to outlaw the driving or possession of cars by responsible drivers, it started handing down stiffer penalties and more actively pursued those who broke the drunk driving laws.

Should every responsible collector of swords be penalized because a sword was recently used to commit a murder in our region?

Should every child who owns a baseball bat be required to have a license for it since many baseball bats have been used in beatings and murders?

Let's not forget kitchen knives, hammers and pieces of pipe that may be laying around. All have been used to commit murder.

Steven P. Strohmier

Dundalk

Like It So Far?

Not quite a year after predicting that 43 percent of Americans were about to get the kind of government they deserve, and a society many never bargained for, I have a simple question for those who put the Clintons in the White House:

How do you like it so far?

Jeffrey C. Wright

Overlea

National Guard: No Solution

I sympathize with her, but the problem in Pamela J. Yeckley's Oct. 13 letter is that she has no idea of what she is talking about when attacking ". . . Carl Rowan and . . . everybody like him who believes that putting the National Guard on city streets is a 'frightful step'. . .".

I speak as a combat infantry officer and pre-World War II National Guard soldier who graduated from the Army's police academy and studied military law and martial rule in law school.

The U.S. National Guard is a reserve component of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.

Although in peacetime the states may use National Guard troops briefly in local emergencies (so long as the federal government does not object), the Pentagon and its National Guard Bureau would not -- and legally could not -- allow such use of troops as conscripted auxiliary police.

Martial law may be used legally only to the extent necessary to put the civil authorities back in control after losing it. Only if this cannot be done promptly is martial rule justifiable.

In crying out for somebody to protect her and her family, Ms. Yeckley seems unaware that National Guard troops have jobs, businesses, families, children. Nowadays some are even wives and mothers. All are her neighbors. . .

Does she demand that such people be sent downtown to be shot at so that she and her family can feel safe? For how long? Who would do the Guardsmen's civilian jobs? . . .

Soldiers are trained to kill (as at Kent State) -- not to arrest people. They have no aptitude for acting as civil policemen.

At least for the time being, Ms. Yeckley should agitate for a larger police force.

Willis Case Rowe

Catonsville

NAFTA and the Environment

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, in his Opinion Commentary article promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement (Sept. 21), stated that "environmentalists have responded positively" to side agreements tacked onto NAFTA in an effort to address its anti-environment provisions.

We would like to point out, however, that this is not completely true. NAFTA is still fundamentally flawed, and many environmental groups continue to oppose it.

One of the major environmental problems with NAFTA is that, under the agreement, an international commission can target U.S. environmental laws as barriers to trade.

For example, we in the United States have a tough law which prohibits cancer-causing pesticides in processed food, where they can become concentrated. This strict standard, however, keeps certain Mexican processed food from being sold in the U.S.

Under NAFTA, we could be forced to change this law and to accept these cancer-causing pesticides in our processed food, or else face economic sanctions.

In order to spur the lagging market for recycled newsprint, we in Maryland passed a law requiring increasing percentages of recycled newsprint in newspapers sold in Maryland.

Canadian newsprint, however, is overwhelmingly made of virgin pulp.

The Canadian paper industry has already expressed a desire to challenge U.S. recycled content laws as barriers to trade. Under NAFTA, we in Maryland could be forced to sacrifice this important environmental measure as well.

NAFTA's side agreements presume to fix the environmental impact of NAFTA, but they are really just window dressing on a fundamentally flawed agreement.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Clean Water Action, Environmental Action and the Public Interest Research Groups continue to oppose NAFTA, including its side agreements.

It would be foolish and dangerous to pass an agreement which levels environmental laws toward the lowest common denominator in the name of free trade.

The health and environmental costs to U.S. citizens mean that NAFTA is not "free" after all, and we urge Maryland's congressional delegation to oppose it.

Daniel Pontious

Larry Bohlen

Dru Schmidt-Perkins

Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, executive director of Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG), conservation chair of the Potomac Chapter of Sierra Club, and Maryland director of Clean Water Action.

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