Letters To The Editor

July 10, 2006

Gun trace data used to harass dealers

The editorial "Congress misfires" (July 2) bemoans the fact that gun trace data are no longer being routinely provided to police agencies.

The reason for this is simple: The data have been abused by politicians to file reckless lawsuits against gun dealers and manufacturers.

These lawsuits are totally without merit and are designed to force law-abiding retailers out of business because of the huge legal fees necessary to defend against the lawsuits.

Local law enforcement is allowed to check trace data as long as it is for a bona fide criminal investigation, not a fishing expedition.

But just because a firearm is traced through a local dealer does not prove that the dealer committed any crime.

Suburban or urban dealers sell a higher volume of guns than rural firearms dealers do. It is reasonable to expect that they would receive more trace requests. But this does not mean that these dealers are doing anything illegal.

Third-party firearms sales or "straw-man" gun purchases are illegal.

Our member firearms dealers have been trained through the "Don't Lie for the Other Guy" program by Maryland State Police and our association for the past five years.

But dealers can't read minds. They can only spot certain characteristic behaviors that suggest an illegal sale.

And when they do, they cancel the sale and inform the Maryland State Police, who can investigate, arrest and charge the violators.

No member of our association has been convicted for participating in a third-party sale in the last decade.

Sanford Abrams

Baltimore

The writer is vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association.

Bill won't stop ATF from enforcing laws

Congress is protecting law enforcement by seeking to ensure that gun trace data remain off limits to the general public ("Congress misfires," editorial, July 2).

For instance, New York City recently misused such data to launch a "sting" against firearms dealers.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's recent publicity stunt to announce his lawsuit against some dealers interfered with a number of ongoing criminal investigations, quite possibly imperiling the lives of law enforcement, witnesses and dealers cooperating with law enforcement.

Congress is right to take steps to prevent such shortsighted operations from occurring again. And keeping such sensitive information out of the hands of the public is supported by many law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police.

If firearms dealers are corrupt, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should and does prosecute them and pull their licenses.

But nothing Congress is considering would prevent the ATF from doing that job.

Lawrence G. Keane

Newtown, Conn.

The writer is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Schaefer's honesty really sets him apart

Hooray for state comptroller William Donald Schaefer ("Schaefer's words stir criticism," July 6). Here's a man with the courage to be himself.

OK, so sometimes his words may be a little offbeat and not politically correct. But they come from an honest man, one with absolute integrity.

His detractors take themselves much too seriously.

Fred Everhart

Columbia

State comptroller William Donald Schaefer is a breath of fresh air in the "politically correct" environment we are burdened with today.

He says it just like it is, and devil take the hindmost.

I wish there were a million politicians just like him.

Michael Coughlin Jr.

Fallston

It's the governor who shows no class

The writer of the letter "Rival rally shows mayor lacks class" (July 5) criticizes Mayor Martin O'Malley for holding a rally near the governor's mansion while the Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was announcing his re-election bid.

He calls this "political grandstanding and cheap-shot politics."

I would remind the writer that the governor doesn't own the governor's mansion; he only behaves as if he does.

The governor's mansion belongs to the people of Maryland. Mr. O'Malley is a citizen of Maryland who wants to be the next resident of the governor's mansion. He has as much right to hold a rally in Annapolis as does the governor or any other legitimate candidate.

But if the writer wants a real example of "cheap-shot politics," he need look no further than the governor's classless comments after the withdrawal of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan from the governor's race ("Duncan bows out," June 24).

While the mayor made a gracious and appropriate statement, the governor shamelessly, and tastelessly, used Mr. Duncan's misfortune to make self-serving, self-aggrandizing, politically motivated, totally inappropriate comments.

Ann Power

Catonsville

Leadership failure harms city schools

Gregory Kane wrote an outstanding column on the policies of the Baltimore schools ("Schools may care about kids, but it's not a rule," July 3).

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