The Press Herald’s support for privatizing Riverside Golf Course is shortsighted and, paradoxically, elitist.

For generations, the municipal course has provided an affordable opportunity for kids to learn the game of golf and develop what for many became a lifelong passion for the game.

My education about the game and its rules came when I began caddying at Riverside as a 13-year-old, at a time when caddies would start lining up on a bench outside the clubhouse at 6 a.m. on weekends.

The opportunity to earn money soon led to opportunities to play. At that time in the 1970s, one could purchase a junior season pass for the south course for $30. The hours were restricted to nonpeak times, but to my friends and me, it didn’t matter.

It let us get out and play every day for the entire summer vacation. The presence of a reasonably-priced municipal course made it possible for us to faithfully purchase our season passes every year, through junior high, high school and college.

A privatized course will close the door to opportunities like that, where poor and middle-class kids can learn to enjoy and appreciate the game.

Once privatized, the opportunity is gone for good. The city will never again be in a position to purchase the acres of open space within the city limits needed for a golf course.

Privatizing the course would be a mistake, depriving many residents now and in the future of the opportunity to participate in a sport that began as an elitist activity of the wealthy and, if the city council decides unwisely, may revert to that status again.

David Bragdon

Portland

Using phone in theater is rude to the nth degree 

Here is a message to everyone who attends a concert, play, or a live performance event of any kind. When the people on the stage ask you to turn off your phone, they don’t just mean for you to turn off the ringer.

I’ll spell it out further: Do not open your phone in the theater. It is distracting to those around you and disrespectful to the people on stage.

Turning off the ringer isn’t enough. Do not update your Facebook status. Do not tweet. Do not check the weather, messages or headlines.

If you are expecting an urgent message from someone that cannot be missed, you should not be in a theater. If life needs you, then by all means go where you need to go. Multitasking in a darkened theater is rude, tacky and highly discourteous.

I was recently at a wonderful performance at Mad Horse Theatre. The person next to me checked his messages every 10 minutes or so, and shared a few with his wife. During the climatic last 2 minutes of the play, he was actually texting.

To say that this was distracting is a gross understatement.

Live theater is a wondrous thing. Suspension of disbelief is the door we walk through when a play is done right. We find that the world around us has fallen away. For 90 minutes or more, our universe is that stage, those characters and all the intensity the playwright intended. None of that is possible when your attention is continually diverted to the glowing blue screen in the lap next to you!

Students are taught phone etiquette at school. For those of us who were already adults when mobile technology was invented, however, the lesson still needs to be learned.

So please, by all means, enjoy your smart phone. But not next to me in a theater.

Meghan Gaven

South Portland

Who should have guns? Readers want more, or less

The recent anti-gun liberal letter writers consistently ignore one thing — the facts! Here are the things either they don’t know, or that they don’t want you to know.

1. Despite gangs, and drugs, and 50 percent more guns in circulation, the annual homicide rate in the United States, according to the FBI, is the lowest since 1965.

2. Homicide rates in the nation at 4.2 per 100,000 people are lower than the world average of 7.6.

3. Vermont has a high gun/population ratio and permits residents and non-residents to carry concealed without a license, yet there are only 1.1 homicides per 100,000 people there. The rate in much more restrictive states is higher: Massachusetts is 2.6, New York is 4.0. California is 5.3, Illinois is 6.0.

4. Some 2.5 million times each year a gun is used to thwart a crime, according to the study performed by Dr. Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State. How many more homicides might there have been if those victims were unarmed?

5. Florida saw a 30 percent drop in violent crime when citizens were allowed to carry weapons concealed with a permit.

6. Nationally, violent crimes and property crimes have reached the lowest point in decades, and some believe that this is because evil-doers now fear that their prospective victims may be armed.

7. The National Academy of Sciences reviewed dozens of studies and could not find a single gun regulation that clearly led to reduced violent crime or murder.

We have more crime than any of us want, but let us recognize that our more liberal permissive society, where anything goes, where “it’s not my fault” is an accepted excuse, and where liberal judges continue to release repeat offenders, are among the real problems that must be corrected. Guns are not the problem, as statistics prove.

Fred Walther

West Poland

It should be a privilege to own a gun, not a right.

Anyone who has proven themselves responsible, mature and knowledgeable by a federal, state or local public agency should be awarded the privilege of owning a gun. Anyone who hasn’t, shouldn’t.

The ownership or use of alcohol, medicines, motor vehicles, cigarettes, airplanes, all as dangerous or less so than guns, is regulated. The refrain, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” underscores the importance of character, ability and knowledge involved with gun ownership.

Background checks, safety education, referrals from experts and registries should all be used as regulatory hurdles to pass before one obtains the right to own a firearm.

There will always be criminals who manage to get around regulatory hurdles of course, just as there are who get around any regulation, but we should at least put the hurdles in place for the criminal to go around.

I am not concerned with the variety of guns, ammunition or the amount of ammunition each gun can hold. Categories of weaponry can be endlessly parsed to complicate the matter. I am only concerned with the owner. The ownership of a firearm is a serious responsibility and should be treated as such. As a right, this one should be regulated. I feel, however, it shouldn’t be a right, it should be a privilege.

James Carlson

Portland