Suing gunmakers is a reasonable way to stem the violence...


January 09, 2000

Suing gunmakers is a reasonable way to stem the violence

The "benefits" of gun ownership for self-defense do not outweigh the costs, as John R. Lott Jr. claimed in his column "Washington misses the mark in gunmaker suits" (Opinion Commentary, Dec. 29).

In fact, Mr. Lott's arguments are wrong in every particular, and his use of statistics is downright deceptive.

I'll pick two points that are particularly indicative of his distortions.

Mr. Lott cites a 1996 National Association of Chiefs of Police survey that found that 93 percent of the 15,000 chiefs of police and sheriffs polled "thought law-abiding citizens should be able to purchase guns for self-defense."

What he fails to tell us is that most police chiefs also approve the strict registration, licensing and training of persons who choose to keep a firearm for self-defense.

Mr. Lott also grossly distorts the arguments in the suits against gunmakers. He claims they broadly charge "reckless behavior because [gun makers] continue selling guns even though they know that some percentage will be used improperly."

This ignores the fact that the suits deal with two quite specific aspects of malfeasance by the gunmakers.

They fault gunmakers for their failure to produce safer guns that protect children and for failing to better monitor their retailers to prevent "straw sales" where guns go to felons.

As a gun owner, I find Mr. Lott's defense of gun ownership offensive; as a concerned citizen, I find the appeal to self-defense as a reason for gun ownership wrongheaded.

I applaud citizens' actions at the local, state, and federal levels to constrain gun madness in this country.

Peter D. Molan


As a victim of handgun violence, I dispute the pro-gun views John Lott expressed in his recent column.

In a roundabout way, Mr. Lott does acknowledge that the only function of guns is to kill. But he seems to use this fact as a reason not to sue their manufacturers.

What Mr. Lott fails to mention are the underhanded marketing tactics of many gunmakers. The industry makes little effort to limit sales to gun stores in high-crime areas, where straw purchasers supply guns to thugs and gang members.

The main argument of gun advocates such as Mr. Lott and the National Rifle Association is that the threat of violence from guns will stop violent criminals. My experience refutes that argument.

When I was held up on a Baltimore street, the first thing the thugs did was to search to see if I had a gun. If I'd had a gun, they would have taken it before I had a chance to use it.

There are way too many handguns in our country today. My hope is that we will have fewer guns and consequently, fewer senseless deaths in the new millennium.

Matt Fenton


A more attractive city is a more vibrant city

We shouldn't be surprised that a big-city mayor is as concerned about how his city looks as he is about "talking guns and bad guys" ("Chicago mayor has a twinkle in his eye, " Dec. 21).

Richard M. Daley understands that perception is the greater part of reality when it comes to how people relate to cities. That's why his decade-long campaign to plant trees, flowers and grass, and now to have holiday lights strung across the Loop and beyond, has created an urban center that is both familiar and functional.

More trees, less trash and thousands of holiday lights make the city look alive and inviting. Visitors feel safe, and city dwellers see where their tax dollars are going.

Mr. Daley's Chicago evokes the good feelings people still have for cities -- feelings many new-look suburbs attempt to re-create but can never capture.

Forty years ago, Mr. Daley's father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, transformed Chicago into "The City That Works."

Now, this Mayor Daley gives new meaning to the slogan that appears on Chicago's city seal. It reads, "Urbs in Horto" or "City in a Garden."

Mr. Daley's 300,000 new trees prove he is the beautification mayor. It's a style that Baltimore's new mayor would do well to emulate.

Dan Larson


In the information age, big cities are obsolete

The Sun's editorial outlining the most urgent areas for Baltimore's mayor to concentrate on was thoughtful and on the mark ("Mayor O'Malley has promises to keep," Dec. 7).

But even if the mayor meets all The Sun's criteria for city reclamation, that would fall far short of rejuvenating the city.

Mayor Martin O'Malley surely can be compared to the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike.

Magic wands for cities no longer exist. The information age, now in full bloom, has altered the world forever. The need for central cities no longer exists.

Grand old Baltimore City has been replaced by a hundred vibrant little suburban cities in Maryland

Their growth will continue. The outlook for Baltimore is quite the opposite.

Edward T. Rutkowski


In global TV village, PBS remains a shining light

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