Fired Up Over Gun Control

I was extremely disappointed with "Say yes to serious gun control" (Editorials, Aug. 16). While "Under Fire" (Cover Story, Aug. 16) was balanced and informative, the editorial was far off the mark. Unregulated ownership of firearms in America contributes far more to our society than it costs. According to a recent study, there are 134,000 firearm-related injuries in the U.S. annually, including wounds inflicted by police officers, self-inflicted wounds, accidental shootings, and defective gun explosions, in addition to criminal assaults.

According to the Lott study, during the same period, the legal use of firearms by private citizens prevented 2.5 million crimes, such as rape, robbery, assault, and murder. Even with the "fudge factor" of suicides and accidental shootings factored in, firearms in the hands of U.S. citizens are 20 times more likely to prevent a serious crime than they are to cause even minor injury.

Yes, random violence is terrifying. But we should not allow a right that has protected our political process for more than two centuries to be compromised out of panic over the actions of an insane few.

Jim Gahar

Mesa, Ariz.

Your comment about most people not needing handguns flies in the face of numerous studies indicating that guns (usually handguns) are used three to five times more often in self-defense than they are in the commission of crimes. You ignore the fact that the safest places in this country tend to be those with the least amount of gun control. Vermont doesn't even require permits to carry concealed weapons, yet it's safer than places like Chicago, which ban guns outright. You also ignore the fact that only 3% or 4% of the gun-owning public will commit a criminal or irresponsible act in their lifetimes.

Your suggestion that those who oppose gun control are extremist survivalists and anarchists is insulting and in error. My Asian-born wife and I are college-educated, white-collar professionals, a fairly common profile for members of pro-gun organizations. She has voted in every election since becoming a citizen--hardly the action of an anarchist.

Your statement that police in every town support gun control is wrong. Surveys of rank-and-file police associations show substantial opposition to gun control. Politically appointed police officials tend to be out of step with the officers on the beat.

You favor registering all guns. But it's a truism that registration leads to confiscation. This century has demonstrated time and time again that the only defense against tyranny is an armed populace.

David Husar

Arlington, Va.

Confiscation is the only purpose of gun registration. Registration lists have been successful in disarming law-abiding gun owners from New York to Chicago.

While no one "needs" to own a handgun or an assault rifle, it is equally true that no one "needs" anything more than bread, water, modest clothing, and a place to live. However, in America, we pride ourselves on being a free people, having the right to purchase that which we choose to so long as we are law-abiding. No one "needs" to purchase an expensive sports car that can run at twice the speed limit, but in this country, you have the economic freedom

to do so, even in the midst of highway fatalities.

Brian Bissett

Waterford, Conn.

Thank you for the lucid and compelling editorial. It is gratifying to see a prime element of the media speak up so forcefully for sane government action on this issue. The undue influence of the gun lobby on our legislators has to be effectively confronted and overcome with common sense. It is way past time for sanity and proper responsibility to take over in Congress and our state legislatures. Good for you, BUSINESS WEEK!

Richard D. Higgins

Menlo Park, Calif.

As I read about how the Tec-9 used at Columbine High School found its way into the hands of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, it brought back terrible memories of the 1993 law-firm massacre here in San Francisco. The killer used two DC-9s--weapons identical to the Tec-9.

If the citizens who still spout off about the constitutional right to bear such weapons had been at the scene of Columbine High or 101 California Street, I believe that they would change their point of view very quickly.

Mark Mackler

San Francisco

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