President and state are moving toward safer gun lawsIn the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 09, 1999

President and state are moving toward safer gun laws

In the aftermath of the Littleton massacre, the package of new gun controls proposed by President Clinton ("President seeks a new gun limits," April 28) shows insight and understanding of the problem of guns in our nation's schools.

These proposals were initially received coolly by both Republicans and Democrats. But GOP presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole recently announced her support for child safety locks and a ban on assault weapons. Rep. Henry Hyde and Texas Gov. George W. Bush have indicated their support of stricter gun show regulations.

Perhaps the voice of Americans, including gun owners, is finally being heeded.

The one-gun-a-month provision has already proven beneficial in many states, including Maryland.

Within the first year after handgun sales were limited to one per month in Maryland in October 1996, handgun sales dropped more than 25 percent; rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and homicides decreased 9 percent in 1997; handguns traced to crimes in Baltimore City fell 33 percent.

Mr. Clinton also seeks to reinstate the Brady Bill, requiring background checks and a waiting period for the purchase of a handgun.

The recent confusion here in Maryland over the backlog of background checks, which allowed 54 ineligible people to purchase handguns that were later recovered by the state police, points to the need to shore up these checks.

Although efforts to pass such a bill statewide have failed, three Maryland jurisdictions have passed child safety gun lock laws in the past couple of years.

The state's Child Access Prevention Law, which is similar to the one the president has proposed, is also a start toward responsible gun ownership.

Ginni Wolf, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse.

How many guns do we really need?

The gun regulations proposed by President Clinton are a start.

But could someone please enlighten me as to why anyone needs a semi-automatic assault weapon or must purchase one handgun a month?

Stephanie Strunge, Baltimore

GOP must change policies, not just open its primary

In her May 2 letter, "A GOP proposal to reach out to independent voters," Ellen Sauerbrey expressed a desire to recruit independent voters for the Republican Party. But while many of us independents, as she said, aren't crazy about the Democrats, the Republicans don't particularly thrill us either.

The Republicans claim to protect freedom, but they overwhelmingly endorse a flag-desecration constitutional amendment that curtails the right to dissent. They condemn welfare, but tacitly approve millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to profitable hotel chains.

They trumpet the virtues of "personal responsibility," while ignoring the irresponsible behavior of corporate America. They say they support "states' rights," but only so long as states don't adopt legislation they dislike, such as laws that decriminalize marijuana.

If the Republicans want to win over more independents, they need to support First Amendment rights as passionately as they push for tax cuts. This means distancing themselves from the religious fundamentalists who constantly attack the Bill of Rights in their zeal to micromanage our personal lives.

Only then will the Republicans attract those of us who truly cherish freedom.

Tony Soltero, Owings Mills

Counselors need more time to help kids in real need

The Sun's May 1 editorial, "The counselor gap and troubled children," cited the counselor-to-student ratios of local school districts and noted that they are above recommended levels. All the ratios were high, some alarmingly so.

As a Baltimore County teacher and counselor, I applaud your editorial, but I think it also missed a greater point: No matter what the ratio is, what the counselors are doing with the students is the greater concern.

I can only speak for Baltimore County -- though I assume other districts have the same flawed system. Here high school counselors have little time to guide and counsel the students who need it most.

Instead, the vast majority of our time is spent on such clerical duties as scheduling, admissions and withdrawals.

The majority of my colleagues would rather be doing what they do best -- helping children who are hurting.

Ken Shapiro, Baltimore

Moving `Our Daily Bread' will improve downtown . . .

The future move of Our Daily Bread to East Baltimore is a victory for everybody. Why make hundreds of people walk or take the bus to that facility when it could instead be near them in the first place?

The news accounts I have read stressed the business community's opposition to the soup kitchen's current site, but said very little about the local residents who oppose it or the fact that the Enoch Pratt Public Library spends $150,000 a year on cleaning, largely due to abuse from patrons of Our Daily Bread.

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