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State should act to limit reach of assault weapons

The Maryland legislature is considering a comprehensive bill to ban assault weapons ("Md. lawmakers hear gun-ban testimony," Feb. 11). From a public health perspective, this just makes sense.

Assault weapons are civilian versions of military-style weapons -- guns with features designed to make them more lethal. With Maryland suffering around 600 gun-related deaths a year, we need fewer, not more, guns on our streets.

This is a proven strategy. In 1990, Maryland banned Saturday night special handguns. Public health research we conducted demonstrated that the law has saved the lives of 40 Marylanders per year.

But don't we already have a federal ban on these weapons? Actually, the federal ban applies to only a few guns, permitting copycat or slightly-modified guns -- like the one used by convicted snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo -- to remain for sale. Worse still, the federal assault weapons ban is set to expire in September.

Maryland can't depend on an uncertain, noncomprehensive federal law. The legislature should act now to protect the lives of Marylanders.

Jon S. Vernick

Daniel W. Webster


The writers are co-directors of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Disabled advocate merits more respect

I was appalled to read the criticism by Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan and his aides against Joel D. Myerberg, a champion of the disabled who has spent most of his life in a wheelchair coping with obstacles that would have defeated most people yet always working to improve the lives of other disabled persons ("Agency chief defends probe of activist's transportation," Feb. 14).

Mr. Myerberg, who founded and heads the state's Disabilities Forum, has earned the friendship and respect of every Maryland governor dating back to Harry R. Hughes for his energetic efforts to improve the lives of disabled persons. He is now being pilloried by Mr. Flanagan and members of his department for advocating the retention of Yellow Transportation Inc., a contractor that provides cab and van service to the disabled.

The campaign to discredit Mr. Myerberg included an e-mail from a Transportation Department employee regarding Mr. Myerberg's movements in Annapolis ("State tracked him, says activist," Feb. 13).

Paralyzed from the upper chest down, Mr. Myerberg had traveled to Annapolis in a Yellow van to meet with officials of the Transportation Department, challenging the Maryland Transit Administration's decision to award the Mobility contract to another company.

Mr. Myerberg truly deserves public support for his noble work rather than to be denigrated by bureaucrats seeking scapegoats.

Albert E. Denny


Showing concern for all the disabled

Rachael Gingrich, assistant to Deputy Transportation Secretary Trent M. Kittleman, should be commended for expressing concern that a Yellow Cab driver waited for a customer in Annapolis for hours, regardless of who the customer was ("Agency chief defends probe of activist's transportation," Feb. 14).

And I wonder if Joel D. Myerberg, in his concern about his reputation, has lost sight of the issue that all people with disabilities should be treated with dignity and have access to affordable services.

Instead of expecting an apology, he should be thanking Ms. Gingrich for her concern that all people with disabilities get quality service.

Deborah Veystrk


Previous president truly shirked service

I find it strange that the Democrats have now determined that military service should be a requirement to get elected president ("More released to prove Bush service," Feb. 13).

Where were they for the eight years that draft dodger Bill Clinton was president?

John C. Baker

Ellicott City

I have two words to say to those who question President Bush's service to our country: Bill Clinton.

Dwin Constable

Bel Air

Past military service just isn't relevant

President Bush is the commander in chief; Sen. John Kerry is merely the junior senator from Massachusetts.

The military service of those two men decades ago is simply not relevant in 2004.

C.D. Wilmer


Who's responsible for deaths in Iraq?

On two consecutive days, innocent Iraqis seeking jobs as policemen or in the army were killed in large numbers (about 100 in total) by suicide bombers ("Bomber kills 46 Iraqis, Americans get blame," Feb. 12 and "Bomb kills at least 50 in Iraq," Feb. 11).

Many Iraqis believe that Americans are to blame. They are wrong, and they are right.

American soldiers, brave men and women who are dying daily, were not responsible for these horrific acts. However, there are Americans who are to blame for the carnage that continues in this senseless and totally unnecessary war. Their names are President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Karl Rove and (sadly) Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and others who have put both Iraqis and Americans in harm's way for no good reason.

Identifying, finding and removing terrorist leaders around the world is most certainly a legitimate and worthwhile goal. Invading Iraq and capturing Saddam Hussein was a terrible waste of time, money and more than 530 American lives (and counting).

The insanity in Iraq will end only if we admit our terrible mistake and leave.

Bill Blackwell


Dynastic tradition of one-term rule?

In his article "It's just the ticket for presidential trivia buffs," (Feb. 15) Joseph R. L. Sterne neglected to mention that if Sen. John Kerry unseats President Bush, it will continue the tradition begun by the only other father-and-son presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

They were each one-term presidents.

Leon Reinstein


Killing state's bears is really 'extreme'

In "Activists target state's hunters" (Feb. 15), Jim Brown refers to those opposed to the state's first possible bear hunt in fifty years as "extremists."

Killing or, more likely, maiming a sentient animal for pleasure from a great distance with a powerful weapon seems significantly more "extreme" to me.

Kevin Hoffman


Sentence on soil sparkles with life

Tom Horton's writing is frequently a delight, but his line about "soils that are well-salamandered, toadsome and frogful" was a classic ("Little ponds, large impact," Feb. 13).

Bill Earle


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