House gun bill wasn't perfect, but did merit supportLast...


June 25, 1999

House gun bill wasn't perfect, but did merit support

Last week's votes on the House of Representatives' gun control bill asked members of Congress to make some tough choices. Those who voted to kill the gun control bill -- 82 Republicans and 197 Democrats -- did so for a variety of reasons. In a bipartisan way, however, we lost an opportunity to pass reasonable gun safety legislation.

The Sun correctly noted that the bill did not go as far as the version passed by the Senate ("Diluted gun bill killed in House," June 19).

But the bill introduced some reasonable new measures that would have made a difference: trigger locks on new handguns; a ban on importing and selling large capacity magazines; a ban on selling guns to anyone convicted of a juvenile offense, even after they turn 21; and basic safety and background checks for purchases at gun shows.

The great irony of this debate came when Congress labeled an amendment allowing the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools "gun control."

It then turned around and killed a bill that would have actually kept guns away from people who shouldn't have them.

Sadly, the real loser in these debates are those of us who support legitimate curbs on illegal gun sales to criminals.

Was the bill perfect? No, of course not, but it was a step forward.

The Republican leadership carefully balanced basic constitutional rights with the need to close loopholes in existing laws and keep guns out of the hands of felons, juveniles and the mentally ill.

I voted for the bill and will continue to support this kind of intelligent public-safety legislation.

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Washington

The writer represents Maryland's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Media brutality, guns are sources of violence

Gregory Kane's column "Hollywood-style violence is catharsis, not cause," (June 16) cries out for rebuttal. Mr. Kane's comparison of racial violence in the antebellum South of 1841 to school violence at Columbine High School in 1999 was irresponsible.

I don't believe most people are looking for a scapegoat for violence; they are trying to understand why school violence is happening and how to stop it.

Certainly there is no one answer. There is plenty of blame to go around: violence in the media, dysfunctional families, children with little supervision, our overemphasis on sports and, last but not least, ready access to guns.

Mr. Kane overlooks the scientific evidence that shows a correlation between exposure to violence in the media and children's violent behavior.

Why do other countries experience much less violence though they see the same movies? I doubt that children in most countries watch TV without supervision as much as American children do.

Also, violent behavior is easier and more likely to be fatal with a gun -- and gun ownership is viewed as a right only in America.

Elizabeth H. Lehmann, Phoenix

In his defense of movie and television violence, Gregory Kane reminds us that "folks in other countries watch the same movies we do and have nowhere near our level of violence."

If Mr. Kane had expanded on this point, he would have found a more plausible explanation for this country's level of violence than our supposed penchant for violence: our easy access to guns.

In 1996, hanguns were involved in two deaths in New Zealand, 13 in Australia, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada and 9,390 in the United States.

Of those deaths, about half were children and teen-agers -- 2,886 were murdered, 1,309 committed suicide and 468 youths died in unintentional shootings.

Fred Davis, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse Education Fund Inc.

Unemployment, tax credits shouldn't go to parents

This letter is in response to The Sun's editorial on using unemployment funds to pay for parental leave ("Benefits for new parents," June 13).

Unemployment benefits were designed to be used when people, through no fault of their own, are out of work -- and need financial and other assistance to find another job -- and for no other reason.

However, the real issue here is the use of taxpayer money to help people have more babies. I think that's wrong.

I regard giving people tax credits for having children as perverse. People should be required to pay taxes for each child they have, to create a pool of resources for educating them and meeting their other needs.

Barry A. Brown, Monkton

Young fathers program: a story to share with kids

I enjoyed reading the letter about the graduates of the Baltimore City Young Fathers/Responsible Fathers program, "News about children is far from all gloomy," (June 19). I agree with Erika Murray that this kind of news deserves more prominent coverage.

Positive stories about young people improving their lives are the ones I like to read and to share with my children. Please publish more of them.

Ann DeArmon, Frederick

Tarzan and Jane came to Baltimore

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