Saturday Mailbox


April 21, 2007

Turning tragedy into real empathy

The horror and sadness of the shootings at Virginia Tech must not be understated. This is a difficult time for all who have been touched by this nightmare ("Killer walked among them," April 18).

However, as we reflect on what has happened, let us use this opportunity to become more empathetic over the losses of those we often do not hear about - the losses of those touched by such other horrific events of our time as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a nation, we are shocked and devastated by the events at Virginia Tech. But let us not forget that the kind of sorrow we are going through now has been part of the daily life of Iraqis for four years now.

The killings in that war are often indiscriminate and too often have taken the lives of women and children - in addition to students, workers and soldiers ("Bloodshed sets back U.S. effort in Baghdad," April 19).

Yet we are so detached from what is happening in other countries that we act as if the world must stand still while we deal with our own tragedies of 33 dead students.

Again, let me be clear: I am not trying to understate the events in Virginia. They were indeed tragic and horrific.

I am only saying that if the media put the sort of energy and time into covering the wars that it has devoted to covering this Virginia Tech shooting, the outrage and sadness the nation feel now would be turned into empathy for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who have dealt with such tragedies for years on a much grander scale.

The nation would demand an end to this inhumane suffering immediately, and finally the healing could begin.

How many more "local" tragedies need to occur until we understand that killing is killing the world over?

Robert Karp


Banning guns only disarms the victims

Less than 24 hours after the tragic killings at Virginia Tech, the usual suspects were already calling for more gun control, shamelessly exploiting the loss of innocent lives to further their gun-ban agendas ("Va. tragedy likely to put gun control in spotlight," April 18).

There's just one problem with their argument: Guns were already banned on the Virginia Tech campus.

Of course, that did not stop the killer from bringing his guns onto the campus. All that it did was ensure that all of his victims were unarmed and helpless, that there could be no resistance as they were slaughtered en masse.

In Virginia, one can get a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

How different would things have been if a student, professor, janitor or security guard had been armed and had been able to respond in kind to the gunfire in Norris Hall?

No one can say for certain how many lives might have been saved. But the outcome would certainly have been different.

And just as the "gun-free" campus was not spared this sort of violence, neither would gun violence disappear if guns were banned nationwide.

Even if we could somehow magically confiscate every gun in the country, criminals would still get guns.

Whether they were smuggled across the border, stolen from police or illegally manufactured (as is now done in Pakistan and the United Kingdom), criminals would get guns.

All a gun ban would accomplish would be to create more unarmed victims for those who care nothing about the law.

The killings at Virginia Tech were a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those whose lives were taken and to those recovering from their injuries.

But the solution to such tragedies is not to disarm the victims.

Peter Bagnell


Health crusaders curb our freedoms

I have lived in Maryland for all of my nearly 30-year life. However, my residence in this state will be drawing to an end by February 2008 at the very latest.

As a smoker, it has become clear to me that this state no longer desires my presence (although it sure loves taking my money with taxes); therefore, I am taking steps to give the state what it desires ("Debate smolders as ban on smoking looms in Md.," April 11).

I enjoy going out to local bars and restaurants. I also enjoy smoking while doing so.

But I am not willing to bow to the whims of an overreaching state government and the shrill, fanatical cries of the anti-smoking crusaders who pressured lawmakers to pass this anti-smoking decree.

Simply put, I have had enough and I am leaving.

And I want to warn other freedom-loving Marylanders (I know there are still a few out there) before I go.

These crusaders will not stop at banning smoking in bars and restaurants. They are on a mission to wipe out anything they deem unpleasant.

The ball is now rolling, and it will inevitably pick up steam on its downward slope as more and more "unpleasant" activities are taken away from the citizenry.

Smoking indoors today, smoking outside tomorrow, and I don't even want to think what we will ban after that.

In closing, I propose that the state of Maryland should change its nickname.

"The Free State" is obviously not going to work anymore. I suggest "The Fascist State."

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