January 5, 2013

Letters to the editor: Easy access enables gun tragedies

I was born and raised in the state of Maine. My dad bought me my first rifle when I was in the eighth grade and taught me how to use it.

David Keene, Wayne LaPierre
click image to enlarge

Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association CEO, holds a news conference Dec. 21 in response to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. “Rifles configured to fire hundreds of bullets in less than a minute” don’t belong in the hands of private citizens, readers say.

2012 File Photo/The Associated Press

I understand the Second Amendment and the right of Americans to bear arms. But what I don't understand is why private citizens need to own semiautomatic military assault rifles configured to fire hundreds of bullets in less than a minute.

The gunman in Newtown had a semiautomatic assault rifle that sprayed hundreds of bullets into that classroom of 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds, hitting each multiple times.

In 1994, the Clinton administration outlawed all semiautomatic assault weapons in America and limited gun clips to 10 bullets. In 2004, Congress allowed that law to expire.

At least three attempts have been made to bring that law back, but conservative members of Congress blocked those attempts each time. I expect those same members of Congress will stand with the gun lobbyists and the National Rifle Association once again to fight any new gun control initiative.

As the son of a police officer, I support tougher laws for guns that have no place in society. These guns put our first responders and our citizens at much greater risk, unnecessary risk.

Gun control laws are not perfect and will not stop all the killing of innocent people by those who should not have access to guns. But why make it so easy to kill so many so quickly?

Let your state and federal legislators know that you support stronger gun control laws for assault weapons. Pay attention to how they're voting on this important issue. They won't need to be reminded that we have another election coming up in 2014.

Fred Egan

York Harbor

Born and bred Mainers, my grandfathers and my father were hunters. While I don't hunt, I know many people who do and I respect their choice. But hunting doesn't require high-powered, high-capacity military weapons designed to kill humans.

American children ages 5 to 14 are 13 times more likely to be killed by a gun than children in all other industrialized nations, according to David Hemenway of Harvard. Why? Because we have safety regulations for just about everything, but very few governing the sales and use of guns.

You can buy an assault weapon at a gun show without a background check, then drive over to Walmart to stock up on ammunition, or order it online. An increasing number of states have passed laws allowing people to carry their guns just about anywhere.

Schools are the only safe havens in the lives of many children. Some have suggested that educators should be armed. I can't imagine that any educators I've ever known would want a gun in their classroom or office.

Would we revise teacher education programs to add marksmanship to the curriculum? Perhaps some would opt to take an exam for a sniper certificate. But this would not make us safer.

Having guns in school would create a culture of fear, and increase opportunities for students to gain access to weapons that could lead to more school shootings.

Easy access to guns and the rampant violence that distinguishes the United States from other industrialized democracies do not make us freer. There is no simple solution to the level of violence in our nation.

We can start by treating this as a public health and safety issue, one that needs our urgent attention and commitment to preventing any more children, or adults, from being gunned down.

Debra Smith

New Gloucester

People with autism facing stigma after Conn. shooting

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, one of the proposed solutions has been to identify and treat potentially violent mentally ill individuals. This is despite the lack of visible evidence of violence in Adam Lanza prior to his shooting.

The media has painted Adam Lanza as being troubled because of his aversion to eye contact and avoidance of social situations, yet 1 in 150 individuals have a similar condition, that being autism spectrum disorders.  

Symptoms of autism should not be presented in the media as a red flag for mass murder.  

The reaction in the public and the media has been to further stigmatize people with mental conditions and create a sense of fear of them. I do not see how this is going to benefit society, and it seems more likely to me that fewer people will seek help if they feel they will be scrutinized for having a mental condition.

Chris McKellick

Lisbon Falls

U.S. policy paving way for more spills like BP disaster

As an environmental science student and a Maine native, I am happy to see BP Oil held accountable for their crimes. "Innocent until proven guilty" came to an end for BP as of Nov. 15 after pleading guilty to 14 federal crimes, 11 felonies and three misdemeanors. We will most likely see additional criminal and civil fines in the tens of billions.

We are speaking in the correct language of BP by making them pay, though we cannot be satisfied with just $4.5 billion in fines because that is only scratching the surface of the problem.

Banning new oil production and closing current production is where it would really hurt them and keep the environment clean. When Japan had the Fukushima disaster, they decided to close all 50 nuclear plants within 30 years because of the risk they hold. We should follow their example and slowly start to transition from oil to a renewable baseline energy.

Instead of learning from the BP disaster, the United States has done the opposite and is expanding drilling, opening up an additional 20 million acres in lease sales in the Gulf.

In addition to the new lease sales in the Gulf, many are calling for expanded drilling off the East Coast. In fact, the Department of the Interior will be making a decision soon whether to allow seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic.

This testing is the first step in expanding drilling and is an extremely invasive practice in and of itself, putting marine mammals, fisheries and the people that rely on them at risk.

I urge the Department of the Interior to prevent oil companies from conducting seismic testing, protect the health of our oceans and prevent the expansion of offshore drilling off the East Coast.

Keith Crogan Sr.

Winslow 

Letter writer spreads myths about those without homes

I am homeless. I am also an advocate fighting the myths on homelessness and poverty that the writer of the letter "Feeding the animals makes them dependent" (Dec. 10) has obviously been exposed to.

Not all of us were lucky enough to have everything handed to us. Yes, as a child I had everything. This is not about me alone. What the writer did was tell a complete myth, not truth.

There are families with children on the streets because they have no place else to go. There are people who have nothing, and all the writer of this letter can think about is himself.

I now associate the writer of the above-named letter as an inhumane person. I ask him, "Please do your homework."

Laurel Merchant

Portland

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