Mfume's Repudiation -- AgainI had hoped quite frankly that...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 13, 1994

Mfume's Repudiation -- Again

I had hoped quite frankly that a letter like this would not have become necessary, but so much for positive thinking.

It appears as though whatever I say to repudiate the outrageous remarks delivered at Kean College by former Nation of Islam spokesperson Khalid Muhammad, it never seems to be enough.

In your Jan. 31 editions, columnist Dan Rodricks labeled me a "defiler of the cage" and said that my response to Mr. Muhammad's remarks were "inadequate." He wrote that the matter cries out for "full condemnation."

Apparently Mr. Rodricks had not read The Sun of four days prior, in which I am quoted as saying that the remarks in my opinion were "vicious, racist, anti-Semitic and sexist" and that they were "adorned with the same cloth of intolerance that allowed slavery and the Holocaust to occur."

Sounds like a full condemnation to me. But for Mr. Rodricks that was not enough.

On Feb. 8, columnist Michael Olesker (whom I respect) wrote, "Mfume, whose every previous action indicated revulsion for such sentiments, somehow now finds them difficult to repudiate." What a tragedy, I thought.

O.K. gentlemen, write this down for the record.

Every day since Jan. 21 I have said over and over again how outraged I was by the remarks that were spoken.

I have done this on ABC's Nightline, CBS Evening News, World News Tonight, Meet the Press, in the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Sun, USA Today, and the Baltimore Jewish Times, just to name a few.

I later went beyond calling the remarks "anti-Semitic, vicious, sexist and racist" and reminded people that they were also "anti-Catholic and homophobic." But that was still not enough.

So here it is again for all who will listen: "I repudiate his remarks a hundred times, no make that a thousand times. I'll write it on the blackboard a thousand times. I'll even swear on a stack of Bibles every day if I thought that it would be enough."

But I know that for some it will never be enough, and therein lies the real tragedy.

Kweisi Mfume

Baltimore

The writer is U.S. representative from the 7th District of Maryland.

Biased News

The words of former President Reagan ring true -- "there you go again!" Frank Langfitt's Maryland section front page article on Feb. 6 is titled "Gun control advocates, foes ready for battle."

However, close reading of the article indicates that this story only superficially attempts to deal with both sides of the gun control issue.

The legislative proposals of the gun control "advocates" are given much greater discussion than those proposals by gun control "foes."

In fact, although there are roughly equivalent numbers of bills currently introduced in Annapolis by both sides of the gun control debate, the text of your article mentions six gun control bills specifically, but only one gun rights advocates' bill.

In fact, one of the most important bills supported by gun rights advocates, allowing concealed carry permits to be issued to trained and licensed gun owners for the purpose of self-defense (House Bill 9), was not mentioned at all.

Furthermore, your graphics box, which mentioned seven pieces of gun control legislation, mentioned no gun rights or anti-crime legislation backed by gun rights advocates.

By now, your readers are surely well aware of your editorial page stand in support of gun control. But your news page policy should be different.

In a democracy, news organizations have a responsibility to present all the facts, or in this case the legislative proposals, in their news stories, so that informed debate can take place.

This issue does have two sides. Please allow both to be stated. Only an informed citizenry can be expected to engender informed policy and law.

Andrew Harris

Baltimore

Protect Yourself

In his Feb. 6 Perspective article, James S. Keat believes that he has the right to walk the streets without fear of being the victim of robbery or other violent crime. Maryland's highest court sees things differently.

The Court of Appeals has held that the duty of the state to provide protection extends only to the public at large. The police have no duty to protect any particular citizen.

Not surprisingly, communities that make it as hard as possible for ordinary citizens to own or carry firearms for their own protection also have higher than average rates of violent crime. Witness, for example, New York City and the District of Columbia.

If people cannot possess or carry firearms for self-defense, they become easier prey for the same type of people who abducted and robbed Mr. Keat.

When police departments, such as Baltimore's, are perceived as expending little effort to solve robberies or other violent crimes, criminals become even more emboldened.

Since the state has no particular duty (or the ability) to protect individual citizens against violent criminals, it should afford them the means by which they can defend themselves, should the need arise.

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