Tired of NRA's preaching on handgunsIn Long...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tired of NRA's preaching on handguns

In Long Island, six people are dead and more than 20 are injured from a handgun. The murder rate in Baltimore City will again set a new record, a rate that will have Baltimore become one of the top five murderous cities in the country. There is no end in sight to this violence.

I am so tired of the National Rifle Association's cry concerning our "constitutional right to bear arms." We do not have any such right.

The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

This guarantee protects the right to keep a well-regulated militia -- what we call today a state national guard. In that context the people have the right to bear arms; they have the right to be armed soldiers in the state militia. A long time ago, the courts decided on this interpretation but the NRA continues to give false and misleading information to further its political agenda.

This amendment was authored 200 years ago because of the oppression we as a people suffered at the hands of the British colonialists. When setting up this country's ideals and laws, our forefathers wanted to guarantee that we would never suffer from an oppressive government again.

Today, this becomes a moot point. If our government decided to become oppressive, the people with the "NRA's right to bear arms" could do nothing against the government's massive firepower that exists today.

For argument's sake, let us assume that the NRA's literal interpretation of the Second Amendment is correct. With that, let us all be literal and ask why the National Rifle Association has any interest in handguns at all? It is a rifle association dedicated to hunting and target shooting. If it were up to NRA, hunters would be out in the woods stalking deer with "cop-killer" bullets fired from fully automatic weapons. Absolutely nothing would be illegal.

Time and again, the National Rifle Association argues and cites examples of how the day was saved because some citizen was able to shoot a trusty Colt 45 before the bad guy was able to shoot his. When is this insanity going to stop? Is it time for our lawmakers to put stock in what is truly important and essential to every one of us: our right to "domestic tranquillity."

It is time for these legislators to promote the general welfare. The only way to do this is to find the courage and intestinal fortitude to stand up to the National Rifle Association and not simply control handguns but outlaw them entirely. In a civilized world there is no room for these weapons designed simply to kill our fellow man.

Gerald Alan Goldstein

Baltimore

Belching trucks

Elmer Hoffman, in his Nov. 13 letter, was mistaken in believing that nothing is being done to reduce emissions from heavy-duty trucks in Maryland.

Maryland's existing Vehicle Emission Inspection Program tests all heavy-duty gasoline fueled trucks weighing 26,000 pounds or less. However, heavy-duty diesel trucks are the most likely sources of the "black and gray clouds of smoke" referred to in Mr. Hoffman's letter. While there is currently no mandatory emissions inspection program for these vehicles, efforts are under way to reduce diesel vehicle emissions.

Maryland is in the midst of a two-year pilot program studying the feasibility of a diesel vehicle emissions inspection program. Heavy-duty diesel vehicles are being tested randomly at truck weigh station inspection points and at fleet maintenance yards. All heavy-duty diesels operating in the state are subject to inspection, not just Maryland-registered vehicles. The results of the pilot study will help determine whether a mandatory testing program should be established for diesel trucks and buses.

In addition, the federal government has mandated the sale of cleaner-burning diesel fuels. Cleaner diesel fuels are already available at the pump and will significantly reduce pollution from diesel vehicles.

Merrylin Zaw-Mon

Baltimore

The writer represents the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Positive linking

A lot of sound has passed under the bridge since Baltimore's own Garry Moore, who recently died in South Carolina at age 78, was one of television's most popular stars in the 1950s and 1960s.

Although he resolved in his early years to become a serious writer, he turned instead to radio continuity writing in the middle 1930s. From 1943 to 1947, he was Jimmy Durante's partner on radio and later host of the highly successful Garry Moore Show.

It's rare indeed to hear any memorable or not easily forgettable comments from entertainers on TV, the pace that launched a thousand slips. But Garry Moore was an exception in at least one instance.

I recall a remark he once made on the air that is still worthy of high noting: "I've never read a piece of writing that couldn't be improved by a bit of judicious editing."

Thus the famous variety show host added his note of approval to an area that one might call the power of positive linking.

Wells Mears

Baltimore

Taking action

Your Nov. 23 article on the end to the American Airlines flight attendants' strike stated that President Clinton had been the main negotiator in the settlement, having "persuaded both sides to agree to binding arbitration" via telephone.

Not only does this situation represent the power of "presidential arm-twisting," it also shows that Mr. Clinton cares for his people and is willing to work his hardest to get the economy of this nation back on its feet.

Due to the timing of the strike, many scheduled Thanksgiving vacations were put in jeopardy, and a blow to the economy was seemingly inevitable. However, President Clinton stepped in and put a halt to the strike before the holiday, saving many families from missing their relatives.

However many faults we may find in our president, it is nevertheless comforting to know that he isn't going to sit in the Oval Office and watch our problems inflate. Instead, he is going to take action.

Trevor Woodward

Baltimore

Political ploy

Concerning your Nov. 23 article about Mary Pat Clarke finding a drug treatment program for an addict while Mayor Schmoke spoke at a drug policy conference, the political ploy of Ms. Clarke projecting herself as a doer and Mayor Schmoke as a talker was obvious.

I have never taken an illegal drug but I have lived in this city for more than 30 years and have worked for it as a volunteer for many years. I am one of approximately 150 employees soon to be transferred from a Union Memorial Hospital contract to city employment.

Though all of us are to remain in our respective positions, we will lose all our seniority, accrued sick leave and vacation time and other benefits too lengthy to mention here. All have been working for the good health of Baltimore City residents under less than favorable conditions; yet we have been treated as dirt (sorry, but no one could think of a better word to describe our feelings) by Baltimore City's personnel department and some members of the health department's administration.

Ms. Clarke made a few phone calls to help one person find a drug treatment program, making the present mayor look bad. How convenient.

You will have to do better than that though to get my vote, Ms. Clarke. I want to see how you and Mayor Schmoke handle a problem such as ours which you and the City Council have known about for months and done nothing about.

Dale S. Leeper

Baltimore

To stop homicide epidemic, we must 'dare to care'

The latest FBI crime report shows a worsening situation to a substantial degree for urban areas throughout out nation.

The situation is exacerbated by endemic crack cocaine use and the ready availability of guns.

Despite record-level homicide deaths, I am convinced the situation can be abated if those in positions of leadership at all levels address the problem forthrightly.

The total machinery of government, state and federal, will be required.

The most unsettling aspect of the senseless loss of young lives in our urban centers is that pre-adolescent children are becoming inured or indifferent to violence. Their anomie is destructive to their aspirations, dreams and possibilities.

A concerted community approach among churches, fraternities, sororities and civic groups is essential. The schools cannot do it alone.

Samuel L. Banks

Baltimore

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