Terror at Waco
I am perplexed by Herm Schmidt (letter, May 19) and others who have forgotten the real culprits in the Waco tragedy.
I agree that mistakes were made by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. I cannot understand those who refuse to recognize that the decision to start a siege and put the lives of innocent children at risk was made by the Branch Davidians (women included).
They were the killers of innocent children. They had the power to remove the children from danger.
Do we really want to support citizens who choose to disregard the law or the officers who defend it? Do we want to send the signal that the best way to handle rights violations is to shoot it out Texas style?
The horror and terror that the children felt each night at the Branch Davidian compound was imposed upon them by their parents, and began well before the ATF raid.
In response to the editorial of May 20, "The President Finds His Target," it is a shame that President Clinton has identified the National Rifle Association as his target of choice for presidential attacks.
In the aftermath of the horrendous act that occurred in Oklahoma City, America needs a president who reaches out in an effort to unite all Americans against the evils that breed such acts.
To insinuate that the NRA and its members are somehow responsible for domestic terrorism and are anti-police is malicious and does nothing but further divide and galvanize our society.
The fact that the NRA consists of a cross-section of our society, including police officers and other respected members of the criminal justice system, seems to have been overlooked.
They are an inappropriate target of such attacks. Those of us who comprise the "pro gun" movement are as vehemently opposed to such actions as any other loyal citizen. We share in the horror, outrage and grief.
In the war of rhetoric, the NRA has certainly had to defend itself from more that its fair share of attacks.
For many years, there has been a steady barrage of rhetoric aimed at the NRA and its members from the government and "mainstream media." Terms such as "crazies," "gun nuts," "zealots," "fanatics" and "right wing fringe" certainly do not accurately describe the average gun owner or the average NRA member.
Political cartoons depicting the NRA as aligned with the Nazis and supremacist groups are despicable. They are not only inaccurate, they are a deliberate attempt to slander and demonize.
I have been a law enforcement officer for almost 23 years. I have been an NRA member and an enthusiast of shooting sports even longer. My experience with NRA members and officials has revealed overwhelming praise and support for the men and women who risk all to protect our communities.
I agree with the NRA's Wayne LaPierre when he says his statement about "jack-booted thugs" painted with too broad a brush. Federal law enforcement as a whole is not to blame for improper behavior on the part of a few federal agents.
Nevertheless, it appears that there have been inappropriate actions on the part of some agents. Congressional hearings into those allegations may reveal the truth and could go a long way in calming the furor over incidents like Waco and Ruby Ridge.
The first line of your editorial says that "every ambitious politician needs enemies as well as friends," but every good leader can distinguish the difference.
I don't agree with Mike Littwin's opening argument, or his math, in his May 24 column, "On balance, maybe courts just don't get math."
Like he did, let's get the math out of the way first.
Mr. Littwin states that Maryland's black population is 24 percent, but of that figure, how many individuals are college-age?
By Mr. Littwin's figuring, the University of Maryland should mirror the general population, regardless of age, percentage point for percentage point. It's unfair and incorrect to hold a state university accountable to any group of citizens in that way.
I did some research and found in the 1990 census that black young people from ages 15 to 24 make up 16 percent of the black population in our state.
Expanding that figure to the entire Maryland population, that race and age group accounts for only 4 percent.
So if you accept my age group calculation, the University of Maryland, by Mr. Littwin's logic, has three times as many blacks attending as exist in the general population. And Mr. Littwin doesn't take into account that the University of Maryland accepts students from any state or country. In that sense, looking only at Maryland is provincial and moot.
Encouraging students of a certain race to attend college or study a particular discipline is a challenge regardless of the institution and needs to begin well before scholarships come into play.
Parents and school systems need to expose children to the almost infinite number of careers they can pursue and should also make them well aware of the requirements they will face upon entering a college or university.
I'm sure that the University of Maryland's Banneker scholarships will continue to be a way for bright students to receive an education. I think achieving that goal, rather than focusing only on race and percentage points, is really in everyone's best interests.
Housing Reporting 'Fragmented and Skewed'
I am responding to a May 16 article in The Sun, "Housing agency bill questioned." I was deeply offended by the fragmented and skewed reporting style of staff reporter JoAnna Daemmrich and by the remark attributed to Councilman Martin O'Malley.
The statement attributed to Mr. O'Malley read, "I really do not understand what it is people with the Housing Authority have to hide, or what they fear from coming to this forum."
Obviously, a statement of this magnitude, uttered by a confused councilman was designed to discredit and cast aspersions on the HABC Board of Commissioners and staff members, who for the most part are honest, hard-working citizens. I will not stand idly by and tolerate innuendoes. My intention is to set the record straight.
On April 24, I received a letter from Mr. O'Malley, chairman of the Legislative Investigations Committee, requesting the Board of Commissioners to testify on May 5. I responded in writing on April 27 to Mr. O'Malley on behalf of the board with the following list of justifications for not honoring his request.
Earlier this year (March 7), four of the five commissioners appeared for 7 1/2 hours at a similar hearing with Mr. O'Malley present. The commissioners utilized accrued leave time from their occupations to participate in that hearing. Two of the commissioners testified, Lorraine Ledbetter and myself.
Due to the fact that the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners serves on a voluntary basis and have other duties, obligations and employment, we were unable to allocate more time to the City Council.
I informed Mr. O'Malley that on behalf of the board I would be glad to respond in writing to any specific questions he may have where appropriate, just as the executive director has done in the past. My letter stated that HABC was fully cooperative with the federal Department of Justice and with the HUD audit and HABC was in the process of responding and resolving those issues.
Mr. O'Malley requested the minutes of the HABC board meetings from January 1992 to the present. I complied with his request and provided him with copies of the minutes along with the by-laws. He has received in excess of 20,000 documents from HABC.
I elected not to raise the legal questions and issues in my response to him, as they relate to his request to have the Board of Commissioners appear before the Legislative Investigative Committee. There are many legal questions and hurdles that must be cleared, given the fact that HABC is not a municipal agency. Mr. O'Malley is not on firm legal ground.
My written response to Mr. O'Malley was clear and precise, which left little room for a margin of error with respect to comprehension.
It is unclear why I was not asked by The Sun's staff writer to comment on the Board of Commissioners' position with regard to this issue.
Reginald C. Thomas
The writer chairs the HABC Board of Commissioners.