Girl's death shows state needs to enforce drunken...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 04, 2002

Girl's death shows state needs to enforce drunken driving laws

How many more people have to die before Maryland starts treating drinking and driving as a serious offense? The legal [blood alcohol content] limit was recently lowered from 0.10 to 0.08, which is a step in the right direction. However, lowering the limit doesn't accomplish a thing as long as repeat offenders are still driving our streets, endangering all of our lives.

On Dec. 20, a woman with a blood alcohol level of 0.27 changed the lives of several Baltimore families forever ("Girl, 7, walking to NE city school dies in hit-run," Dec. 21). One child was killed. At least eight others witnessed the accident, which could have a significant emotional impact on them.

The driver had prior arrests for drinking and driving.

To make our streets safer, people caught drinking and driving need to be sentenced to jail for each and every offense. Waiting until they have maimed or killed someone is too little, too late.

Chris Slaterbeck

Westminster

The Sun's follow-up article on the death of Brijae Harris notes that Debra A. Chafin [the woman charged with murder for her death] had several drunken driving arrests in the past, including a charge from 1999 that is still pending ("No bail in traffic death of girl, 7," Dec. 22).

Readers know lenient drunken driving laws in Maryland are the result of lobbying by the "hospitality" industry. In a sense, it is responsible for Brijae's death.

But we are wondering why the charge against Ms. Chafin from 1999 is still pending after almost two years.

The Sun's intensive follow-up would be a community service.

Bob Seegal

Pikesville

The recent death of 7-year-old Brijae Harris of Northeast Baltimore should never have happened. Not when the drunken driver who hit her had been charged earlier this year in Baltimore County with driving while intoxicated.

Before that, she faced three similar charges. This woman should have lost her privilege to drive long ago.

Until all states toughen drunken driving laws by increasing the penalties for repeat offenders, this senseless slaughter on our roads will continue. We must not let intoxicated individuals get behind the wheel of a car and claim the lives of the innocent.

Debby Ross

Timonium

Devotion to gun rights endangers public safety

The U.S. Justice Department has refused to let the FBI examine federal records to determine if any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks purchased guns in the United States.

And U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told a Senate hearing that the reason for this decision was that FBI checks of gun records would violate the "privacy" of the foreigners detained.

Nothing trumps our attorney general's devotion to so-called "gun rights": Not safety, national security or even the war on terrorism will stop him from properly thanking the National Rifle Association for the outrageous amount of money it spent on his 2000 senatorial campaign.

We must demand that Congress and our president not only close the dangerous gun show background check loophole, but that they also require adequate retention of gun sales records and strict identity and residency verification of everyone who buys a gun in this country.

Michael Stefanek

Columbia

Bush declares war on Maryland's health

I'm afraid that President Bush has been carried away with his belligerence. This time he has declared war on the health and wellbeing of the people and resources living downwind from coal-fired power plants ("Bush expected to weaken portions of Clean Air Act," Dec. 23) .

If we permit greater emissions from these facilities, Marylanders (especially those with lung problems) can expect even more difficulty breathing.

The additional airborne sulfur and nitrogen oxides from the power plants will eventually precipitate out over land and water resources. Any progress on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay will be severely set back.

Mr. Bush may feel that he has a mandate to dirty the air from his energy buddies, but he certainly does not have such a mandate from the American people.

Ajax Eastman

Baltimore

To protect the trade center, just give it a different name

Rather than spending $1.2 million of taxpayer money to construct a walkway out over the Inner Harbor to allegedly protect the Baltimore World Trade Center from a terrorist attack ("Inner Harbor walkway proposed," Dec. 18), why not eliminate the threat by simply changing its name to, say, the Chesapeake Tower?

David Tufaro

Baltimore

The writer is a former Republican candidate for mayor of Baltimore.

Delay in renovating museum should prompt public outrage

It disturbs me to learn of the movement afoot to postpone rebuilding the building housing the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, commonly known as the Old Patent Office Building ("Shutting down Washington," editorial, Dec. 14).

This building is a major cultural asset in our capital. As construction is already well underway, use of the building cannot be regained until it is restored.

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