Views of the Crime BillIn your editorial, ''Mugging the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 20, 1994

Views of the Crime Bill

In your editorial, ''Mugging the Crime Bill'' (August 13) condemning the vote by the House against President Clinton's crime bill, you say Rep. Kweisi ''Mfume was both realistic and right in giving a higher priority to a ban on 19 assault weapons that are ravaging inner-city neighborhoods. . .''

This statement is factually incorrect and misleading.

1. The bill banned approximately 175 gun models, not 19.

2. The guns banned by the bill are virtually never used in the commission of the types of crimes ''that are ravaging inner-city neighborhoods.''

So why is the president still insisting that the ban remain in his bill? Perhaps crime isn't the only thing he wants to control.

Richard T. Seymour

Baltimore

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Every TV news commentator I heard or editorial writer I read last week with something to say about the Republican trashing of the crime bill has labeled it a stunning defeat for President Clinton.

Well, it was a stunning defeat all right but not only for the president, who is trying to bring some sort of sane control to the rampant crime and killings on the street, but also for every non-NRA law-abiding citizen who believes, unlike Rep. Newt Gingrich, that it is a lot better to have 100,000 new police officers on the beat than 100,000 new assault weapons instead.

Representative Gingrich wants 100,000 new assault weapons made available to anyone who has the money to pay for one. (Like rich drug lords, for example?)

When Newt Gingrich wins, we non-NRA law-abiding citizens lose.

John D. Venables

Towson

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I read that the crime bill was blocked in the House. This is not bad -- some of its provisions would be a mistake. Expansion of the list of death penalty crimes is going in the wrong direction. We should move to abolish the death penalty.

Assault weapons should not be in civilian hands. Yes, I'm a rifle owner, but those things have no place in sport.

I'm glad to see that first-time non-violent offenders are off the mandatory minimum sentence list, but I think all mandatory minimums should be eliminated. Let our judges use their judgment.

I also think that we should seriously consider decriminalizing drug usage. The high dealer profits have led to gang violence over ''turf'' and have driven addicts to crimes they would otherwise not have to commit in order to get money for their habit. This ''prohibition'' mentality is creating criminals. Better we should use our resources for addict treatment and public education about the dangers of drugs.

We have a higher percentage of our population behind bars than any other country in the world. Our money should go, not to housing people at a cost of $42,000 a year per person, but to removing the causes of crime -- poverty, desperation and ignorance. Eliminating prisoners from Pell Grant eligibility represents only 1 percent of the grant money. These men will get out some day, and if they couldn't make it on the street before, wasting their time in prison isn't going to help. Education is their key to a useful life.

The ''tough on crime'' crowd sings revenge at all costs -- and those costs are too high, both in money and in wasted human potential.

ohn D. Fogarty

Columbia

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Let me see if I've got all this straight. After 225 members of Congress -- including 56 Democrats -- voted against his crime bill, President Clinton still can find no fault with the legislation. No siree. According to him, the bill's death is the fault of the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party. This is, of course, the same NRA which the administration gleefully pronounced dead after the ban on so-called assault weapons was passed as separate legislation by two votes a few months ago.

Also according to the president, members of the Black Caucus who voted against the crime bill, because of their opposition to capital punishment, are to be commended for their principled stand. At the same time, congressmen who took seriously their oath to defend the Constitution -- which, the last time I checked, includes the Second Amendment -- in the face of intense media pressure and anti-gun demagogy, are to be scorned for having taken the easy way out and kowtowing to the evil NRA.

This criticism, of course, comes from a man who many Americans doubt would know a principle if he were locked in a room with it.

Is it 1996 yet?

Giffen B. Nickol

Bel Air

Traffic Safety

We all know that tailgating is unsafe and illegal, but it is virtually unenforceable.

Imagine yourself traveling on the beltway at 50 miles an hour and the driver decides to follow approximately two feet from your rear bumper. As you come up over a rise, there's an accident just ahead and you are forced to stop suddenly.

Because the driver behind you is tailgating, he cannot stop in time, so he slams into you at approximately 50 miles an hour.

Now ask yourself, what are your chances of survival (not to

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