Now to the illegal-gun ownership issues. In a perfect world, you forfeited your rights when you made the purchase If you were stupid enough to use it in the commission of a crime, you will have to do the time. Sometimes gun charges are bargained down, and that option should be eliminated. Mandatory time in any incident in which a weapon is used should be the standard.
Laws can be changed. Start the conversation. Don't just stand there, do something.
Thomas M. Conway, Lewes, Del., email@example.com
Limits of gun-control laws
Let me predict the future. President Obama will present stricter gun restrictions to Congress and, after little or no debate, the emotions of the moment will lead to them being swiftly enacted into law. The proponents of gun control (really, total gun confiscation), having fed their hatred of guns will, at the next opportunity, repeat their success. The understandable anger we all feel will be sated, but the underlying problem will not.
Massacres don't happen at or near police stations, but rather in gun-free zones. Had there been several armed and trained individuals in Sandy Hook Elementary School, it is doubtful that this crazed man would have attempted his depraved act. Even if he had, he would have been stopped much sooner than he was.
Stronger gun laws will take guns out of the hands of those who could have stopped what happened at Sandy Hook, but will have no effect on taking away guns from the deranged.
Steve Heitner, Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't control guns, abolish them
In the wake of the massacre in Connecticut, there have been many letters advocating stricter gun control, but they are all missing the point. America will only become a truly civilized country when guns are abolished, not controlled.
Ivor Walton, Garnet Valley
Good guys vs. bad
When Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Associations, states that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he doesn't recognize that the bad guy often think he's the good guy ("In wake of Newtown, a misfire from the NRA," Wednesday). Who gets to define good and bad?
Marty Millison, Philadelphia, email@example.com
Uproar over 'assault weapons'
Assault weapons are already banned. Assault weapons are fully automatic military weapons and federal law prohibits civilians from owning or selling them. In fact, none of the rifles used in recent mass shootings at colleges, malls, and theaters were fully automatic assault rifles. They were semiautomatic replicas of assault rifles.
The media uproar for a ban on "assault weapons" serves no purpose other than to create a false impression that fully automatic machine-gun-type weapons are readily available to the public. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In its 1994 law, Congress did not want to ban all semiautomatic weapons. It focused on 18 specific firearms, as well as certain military-type features on guns, such as pistol grips, folding or collapsible stocks, and bayonet mounts. The ban lasted 10 years and then expired, as provided in the law.
Whether the 1994 ban accomplished anything is debatable, but, at present, semiautomatic military-style rifles are legal to own and should not be demonized as prohibited "assault weapons."
Alan Phillips, Garnet Valley
NRA misses an opportunity
The NRA has blown a golden opportunity to clean up its image. Instead of announcing, for example, that they would support reasonable regulations to ban or limit the sale of assault weapons, or that background checks should be employed at gun shows in addition to those already required at gun shops, they present a "fight fire with fire" approach to a problem that they clearly do not understand. No one should be surprised. It's like expecting the devil to suggest ways that people can get into heaven.
Ron Ranieri, Dresher
Make protection of kids a priority
We guard our money and our property, and we wait in security lines at airports, but protecting our children is obscene? As Wayne LaPierre said, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Don't like the "Wild West" nature of the solution? Well, you're not going to get rid of the guns or the crazy people. Yes, by all means, restrict firearms. Pour more money into mental health. That's certainly needed and helpful. But if you want to protect children, you should be willing to do at least what we do for money or property.
I saw a quartet of children, ages 5 to 7, interviewed about the recent violence. They all said they'd feel safer if there were armed guards in their schools. I wonder why they don't see that as obscene? Could it be that they're the ones at risk and the politics be damned?
Larry L. Laster, Wayne, firstname.lastname@example.org
Outdated laws on mental health
There are too many guns with too much firepower. There are too many untreated mentally ill people. Sadly, we all know the tragic consequences of that combination. Common sense and common decency demand that we act to prevent future tragedies. If we wait until obviously psychotic people have a weapon in hand before we can lawfully require treatment, we have obviously waited too long ("Not just about gun control," Sunday). Pennsylvania requires that a person to be "a clear and present danger" to self or others before a legal commitment to treatment can occur. That means the very thing we want to prevent must happen before action can be taken. It's way past time to change our law and practices.
Stephen Segal, Philadelphia, email@example.com
Legislation reflects values
The effectiveness of gun-control laws has not been subjected to nearly enough study ("Trade-offs come with security," Monday). We simply don't know enough about what works, in large part because the NRA and other gun-control opponents have managed to block funding for research.
Regarding the culture, the violence that saturates our entertainment industry is indeed a spiritual sickness. When President Obama said, in the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook, that "we must change," he was referring to our violence-loving culture, not any specific legislation. But legislation is the enactment of our values, as the absence both of adequate mental-health resources and any restriction on assault weapons serves to remind us.
Alan Windle, Philadelphia, firstname.lastname@example.org