Letters To The Editor


September 14, 2004

Weapons ban did not affect the crime rate

Reporter Laura Sullivan's article on the "assault weapon" ban distorted the facts ("Assault weapon ban heads for quiet death," Sept. 9).

Her claim that the banned guns are "capable of firing dozens of bullets in seconds" seems to imply that they are machine guns, which is false. The once-banned guns will fire one bullet each time you pull the trigger; they are not machine guns.

She talks about a "drop in crime rates," yet fails to say that crime rates started dropping years before the ban was enacted.

She talks about assault weapons as the "weapon of choice for many drug dealers," but neglects to mention that "assault weapons" were used in less that 2 percent of all crimes involving firearms before, as well as after, the assault weapons ban went into effect, according to the FBI.

She goes on to accuse gun manufacturers of having "sidestepped the law by making cosmetic changes to weapons," when in fact all the law did was ban cosmetic features. The manufacturers were obeying the law by no longer making guns with those features.

The truth is that assault weapons have never been a source of violent crime. But the law had a huge negative effect on law-abiding gun owners such as myself.

The truth is also that gun control does not reduce crime. If it did, New York, Washington and Los Angeles would be nonviolent utopias.

Keeping violent criminals in jail and allowing law-abiding citizens the means to defend themselves do far more to prevent crime.

Peter Bagnell


Rifles aren't the guns that criminals use

In one breath, gun control advocates claim that the assault weapons ban was successful in reducing crime. However, in the next breath, they often contradict that claim by complaining that these rifles are still being manufactured, only without the cosmetic features such as a flash suppressor or bayonet lug that the law targeted ("Assault weapon ban heads for quiet death," Sept. 9).

If such guns never went out of production, and they certainly didn't, how on Earth could a ban that focused on cosmetic features have been effective at reducing crime?

The fact that is rarely mentioned is that these rifles were rarely used in crimes both before and after the assault weapon ban began. The criminal's typical weapon of choice is a small, concealed handgun, not a rifle.

Indeed, there is not one independent academic study that has shown that the assault weapon ban had any positive impact in reducing crime rates.

Violent crime rates have been steadily declining in all categories since 1991, well before the ban was enacted. Yet firearms ownership continues to increase, including ownership of semiautomatic rifles.

The Second Amendment aside, there is not one legitimate reason to ban these rifles.

James Mullen

White Hall

Letting ban lapse makes us less safe

Shame, shame on the Republican leadership in Congress and the National Rifle Association for ignoring the 71 percent of the American people who supported the ban on assault weapons, the police officers, and the victims and families of the Washington-area snipers and for failing to advocate and enact a continued restriction on assault weapons ("Assault gun ban to die; debate to live on," Sept. 11).

It is difficult to comprehend such a failure of leadership to provide this very basic safeguard and protection to law-abiding citizens, their communities and their families.

E. Niel Carey

Ellicott City

Vice President Dick Cheney recently threatened that if we don't vote Republican, we'll be attacked. Yet this week, our Republican-led government let the ban on assault weapons expire.

Whether it's al-Qaida or homegrown American wackos, innocent lives will certainly be lost to these assault weapons.

If this is President Bush's and Mr. Cheney's idea of keeping us safe, they might as well go back to letting passengers bring knives on planes and unlock the cockpit doors.

John Ringstad


Officers' poor driving puts patrol cars on ice

The Sun's article "City police say they're short on patrol cars" (Sept 6) describes Baltimore's shortage of operable patrol cars. A significant contributor to this problem, which was described in the text and illustrated in the accompanying photograph, is police accidents, which are on pace to number about 600 by the end of 2004, which would be the highest total in four years. Perhaps what should be investigated is how many of these accidents were preventable.

I value the courage and professionalism of our police force, but in 14 years of driving in the city, I have witnessed an extraordinary number of individual acts of careless driving by officers in marked cars but without the lights or siren on.

Of course I exempt cars driven with lights and sirens on - they give ample warning for other drivers to give way. My concern is police vehicles running red lights, speeding, changing lanes unsafely and making illegal turns without any indication that they are responding to an emergency.

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