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Mail DeliveryAs a letter carrier, I feel...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Mail Delivery

As a letter carrier, I feel that words cannot be printed in regards to Richard L. Lelonek's Jan. 30 letter in The Sun.

First of all, the slogan he quoted ["Nor rain, snow nor gloom of night will keep them from their appointed rounds"] is not a post office slogan but of the person who built the first post office. Second, the newspaper carriers do deserve a salute for throwing the plastic-wrapped papers on the ground and delivering the mail at 6 a.m. when it's still dark out, two things letter carriers can't do.

Maybe if good citizens like Mr. Lelonek cleaned their sidewalks and pavements like they are supposed to 24 hours after the fact, carriers could deliver the mail. Did you clean your walk off from day one or did you sit in your house the whole time and wait for it to melt like many of my patrons did . . . ?

Frank F. Braunstein

Baltimore

Guns for Defense

John H. Plunkett (letter, Jan. 19) found it hard to believe Gary Kleck's study showing that private citizens use firearms to defend themselves from criminals more than 2.5 million times annually. Professor Kleck is a criminologist at Florida State University, the 1993 recipient of the American Society of Criminology's Hindelang Award and perhaps the nation's leading authority on the role of firearms in society.

Plunkett wasn't convinced, however. He says that in 40 years of scanning the Associated Press and other wire service reports, he saw few accounts of self-defensive firearms use.

He may be overlooking the obvious. Many self-defense firearms-use cases are not reported to the police, though they may be made known to researchers during surveys with randomly selected persons not required to give their names. Of cases that are covered by the media, most have local news value only and are thus not picked up nationwide.

No one claims that there were more than 2.5 million annual self- defense firearms uses 40 years ago when Mr. Plunkett says he began looking. Back then, with a smaller and more universally civilized citizenry, crimes to defend against were fewer than today, and a criminal convicted, unlike today, could expect to serve considerable time behind bars.

Things are different now. Most felons never spend a day in prison. Researcher Morgan Reynolds has found that the average anticipated sentence for murder in the United States is 1.8 years. Two-thirds of the states are under court orders to release convicts due to prison overcrowding.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the vast majority of all violent crimes is committed by a small percentage of violent, repeat offenders, many of whom the courts plea bargain with, place on probation or parole. Michael Block, a former member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, has said that, in one year alone, 60,000 convicted felons are placed on probation rather than incarcerated.

It is this situation that is in part responsible for the crimes we see in the headlines each day, so many of which, including those TC which horrify us all the most, are committed with weapons other than firearms. It is this situation that in part leads to the high number of crimes that decent citizens prevent with the armed force Plunkett disputes.

Mark H. Overstreet

Fairfax, Va.

The writer represents the National Rifle Association of America.

Medical Ethics

In his letter of Jan. 31, Paul Stark seeks to dismiss the public outrage over secret radiation testing of mentally retarded children in the 1950s. He feels the doses of radiation used in the study were "of no consequence."

Mr. Stark misrepresents the issue. Unauthorized medical experimentation on any citizen, let alone defenseless children, is unexcusable. The intent of the experimenters, the relative safety of their experiments and the usefulness of their experimental results are all beside the point.

The right to be safe from medical experimentation without informed consent was confirmed by the Nuremberg Code and the Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association before these children were secretly fed radioactive milk with their breakfast cereal.

When violations of these basic codes of human rights are "of no consequence" I fear for my own children's safety from people like Mr. Stark.

Ernest Smith

Phoenix

Getting Paid and Not

Since the second coming of the Pleistocene, when we are getting sleet and freezing rain instead of the conventional snow, there have been days when the mail wasn't delivered and the trash collectors didn't show up.

But the person who delivers The Sun finds a way to make it every day. Amazing what you can do when you don't get paid for not doing it.

W. K. Lester

Round Bay

Wine Business Criticism: Naive and Fruity

As a liquor store owner I always thought that wine criticism in Baltimore's only daily newspaper would spark interest and if anything be a boon to our industry; that is until I read Michael Dresser's column Jan. 30.

No industry should be immune from scrutiny, but what I found offensive about Mr. Dresser's scathing attack was that it was filled with misinformation and conclusions based on a naive and ignorant understanding of how our industry works.

Maryland offers some of the lowest prices on wine and liquor in the nation due to the fierceness of competition. It is true that prices in Washington and Virginia have become more competitive in recent years because Maryland had raised its excise tax on alcohol.

However, we still gain much more revenue than we lose as people from other states flock to Cecil and Baltimore counties to shop for bargains. Maryland generates more revenue per capita than most states from the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Any consumer who is interested in price can purchase alcoholic beverages at or near cost by following the ads in The Sun. Rarely have I seen advertised prices over 10 percent above cost, and occasionally I see items on sale for less than cost. I have a relatively modest sized store and many times I sell popular wine at close to cost, and case lots are marked up only between 10 and 20 percent. It is unfair to blame Maryland retailers for selling Dom Perignon for more than $60 since our wholesale cost is $66.50. Perhaps it would be prudent for Mr. Dresser not to mention price in his reviews since some seem to be off as much as 40 percent.

There are hundreds of independently owned liquor stores in Maryland, and it is absurd to imply monopolies and price fixing are a problem since both are illegal and all liquor regulations are stringently controlled by the state. A law suit could not change how the industry is regulated since states have a legal right to regulate the alcohol beverage industry any way they see fit even to the exclusion of private ownership or the banning of sales altogether.

It is unfair to compare an industry that is regulated to one that isn't. One of the reasons that our industry is regulated is because of the potential abuse of alcohol. The people of Maryland determined that it is best to grant liquor licenses only to people who live in the community because they would be more sensitive to the special problems inherent to the sale of alcoholic beverages.

We don't need every 7-Eleven, Giant or Wal-mart to proliferate our communities with liquor outlets. The state's retailers are against chains and monopolies and the threat to the integrity of a free market system that has served the government and the community well.

Mr. Dresser laments the lack of stores with huge selections of fine wine. If he knew anything about the market for which he writes he would know that Maryland has about as many fine wine shops as it can support. Most communities are filled with people who drink beer, liquor and generic wines and could care less about the esoteric wines that are reviewed in The Sun. As trends change retailers will meet the demands. It is preposterous to compare the wine market in New York or D.C. to that of Baltimore. No store is going to have shelves stocked with hundreds of wines and beers that do not turn over. It is comforting to know that any retailer can on a day's notice provide a customer with any wine available in Maryland.

It truly would be a shame if Mr. Dresser lost his job to a syndicated wine critic but maybe we need someone to concentrate on wine commentary instead of naive, fruity business criticism no matter how meaty, gutsy, chunky or intense he thinks he is.

Michael Baer

Reisterstown

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