Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 12, 2002

Mayor blows smoke at failed murder cases

Mayor Martin O'Malley's response to The Sun's recent revelations ("Justice Undone," Sept. 29-Oct. 1) concerning the failed investigation and prosecution of more than 1,000 murder cases in the past five years in Baltimore was alarming ("Murder case woes are in the past, mayor says," Oct. 3).

His condescending assertion that the entire three-part series amounted to a "handful of tragically unsuccessful prosecutions" is insulting to all Baltimore citizens.

Perhaps this is the next installment to the "Believe" campaign -- more smoke and mirrors so we may all "whistle past the graveyard."

The mayor was elected because he offered hope that conditions in our city would improve. That, however, can never happen if the facts are concealed and distorted.

And this posturing must be particularly hurtful to the 1,000 families who have lost loved ones to violence without any consequence to the killers. This callousness no doubt adds to their sorrow, sense of injustice, and outrage.

Baltimoreans must not be like the citizens of another place, who were afraid to tell the emperor about his new clothes.

Anton J.S. Keating

Baltimore

The writer lost in the Democratic Party's primary for Baltimore City state's attorney in September.

O'Malley confronts crime's challenge

I'm quite sure Mayor Martin O'Malley understands the problems in our city's criminal justice system ("Reality check," editorial, Oct. 4). I'm sure Mr. O'Malley knows that far too many of Baltimore's most violent criminals go unpunished.

However, I'm also sure that Mr. O'Malley doesn't accept failure. He has been and will continue to be one of our most vigilant public officials in fighting crime.

And it seems that The Sun may need a reality check. Does it remember when there were more than 300 homicides a year, for a decade? Does it remember who ended a decade of accepted failure, unaccountability and hopelessness?

As for "charging authority," I feel more comfortable leaving it in the hands of someone such as police Commissioner Edward T. Norris, who has a record of reducing crime, rather than giving it to the state's attorney, who has a record of failure.

Ryan C. O'Doherty

Baltimore

More gun control won't stop violence

I was astounded to read of the exchange between Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Bethesda attorney Abbe Jolles concerning gun control and the shootings in Montgomery County ("Ehrlich defends gun stance," Oct. 6).

As reported, Mr. Jolles demanded Mr. Ehrlich "keep people from getting rifles" and argued there are "too many guns out there." People who think this way need to stop and put this issue in perspective.

Firearms ownership is an integral part of American culture and society and always has been. There are 60 million to 65 million gun owners in the United States, and they collectively own more than 200 million firearms. About 14 million Americans hunt, and firearms can be found in almost half of American households.

Lawful firearms ownership is limited to adults with no criminal background. Every aspect of gun ownership -- from design to distribution to sale and use -- is heavily regulated by the federal and state governments, with a myriad of laws already in place. Anything that one can do with a gun to harm others, either deliberately or accidentally, is illegal.

And firearms accidents are relatively rare. In 1999, there were 824 accidental firearms deaths in the United States, compared with 46,000 deaths in vehicle accidents, 13,000 deaths from falls, 3,500 drownings and 2,800 fatal chokings.

The criminal misuse of firearms is also relatively rare, and there is no correlation between gun control laws in a state and its crime rate.

Maryland, with strict gun laws, has a much higher crime rate than most other states, many of which have few such laws. Vermont, for example with a population of 609,000 -- a little less than Baltimore's -- and virtually no gun laws, had nine murders in 2000.

When one examines this issue logically, it is impossible to make the case for more gun control laws.

Yes, criminals do misuse guns, just as they misuse automobiles, computers, cell phones and other common items. But the criminal misuse of any device does not justify assaulting the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Giffen B. Nickol

Bel Air

Racial rhetoric mars Townsend campaign

I was truly hoping that Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend would refrain from invoking the race card. But it showed up in her prepared opening remarks at the Sept. 26 gubernatorial debate, when she linked opposition to race-based affirmative action to slavery, lynching and Jim Crow ("Ehrlich and Townsend exchange jabs," Sept. 27).

One can have legitimate differences about how affirmative action should be applied, but to introduce the race card is sick. The desire to hold on to power makes people do desperate things and, unfortunately, Ms. Townsend has chosen to be racially divisive to buoy her campaign.

This George Wallace brand of politics has no place in Maryland.

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