Letters to the editor
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He only helped to further the gun-control cause
When I was in college, I took a debate class. I had to present and defend an opposing argument from a view that I actually believed in. It was not easy. If Richard Poplawski wanted to maintain his "constitutional right to bear arms" and feared President Obama taking those "rights" away, then why would he kill three officers and try to take out more ("Deadly Ambush Claims the Lives of 3 City Police Officers," April 5)?
Does he not realize that he has now furthered his opposing argument and has given lawmakers and the president more reason to restrict gun ownership?
With his twisted, fanatical views and with the police killings in Oakland, Calif., and the Binghamton, N.Y., and Virginia Tech and Columbine killings, when will everyone actually see the same reality?
There are entirely too many guns in this country; there is way too easy access to gain them illegally; the police are outgunned with all the semi-automatics out there; and there are three dead policemen because someone thought he had a right not only to stockpile guns and ammo but also to indiscriminately use them.
As he was being taken alive from his mom's house and his arsenal, did he at any point recognize that with the dead and wounded bodies and a shattered neighborhood lying in his wake that he had just heightened resolve to get guns out of his and others' twisted hands?
Fears they face
My father, David Moore, was a police officer for more than 40 years, 30 of them with the Pittsburgh police. The death of three Pittsburgh police officers is horrifying ("Deadly Ambush Claims the Lives of 3 City Police Officers," April 5) and has left me thinking of three things that, before he died in 1994, my father told me.
My father told me that because of unpredictability caused by high levels of emotion, knocking on the door of a home from which had come a call about a "domestic" was the scariest part of the job.
My father also told me that weapons in the hands of civilians are a very scary thing.
Finally, when I once asked my father about carrying a gun, he clearly and strongly told me that he was grateful that in all of his years on the force, he had removed his service gun from its holster only twice and had never fired it.
Contrary to the image that many of us have of the police, most officers live with fear. They live with fear of the unknown, fear of violence directed at them and fear of the prospect of having to be violent toward someone else.
On Saturday, in Stanton Heights, Pittsburgh police officers were confronted with all three of my father's fears. I am sure that he would have been deeply saddened by the horrible results.
My idle AK
The loss of the Pittsburgh officers makes my stomach ache. I myself own a few guns; I hunt and practice shoot. I also own an AK-47. It seemed the "thing to do" years ago when my buddies and I saw them on sale at Dunham's.
I enjoy most the AK, with its cheaper ammunition and its terrifying look. Most of the crazy armies in the world use this gun. And it's very accurate within 75 yards, more with a person who's a better shot.
Alicia Keys has been quoted saying she wears a pendant of it, and quite a few more of my urban friends have a tattoo.
It has an "edgy" feel to it, a rebellious nature.
Virtually indestructible, this weapon doesn't need cleaning much and stays on target better than my Browning hunting rifle that costs three times as much.
I have a son now. In the three short years he's been alive, it has gone from in the gun cabinet to the locked-up bag on the top shelf, to a locked-up box in the basement where even my wife doesn't know where it is.
Many times I've thought about getting rid of it altogether, selling it. But looking down at the stock, there are etches in the wood. Of course these are army surplus and someone owned this before, maybe even some rebel in a jungle. I etched my initials in it too. It has a history. And that is what bothers me. I don't know where this gun has been. I don't know what it has done in the hands of the people who owned it. Did it protect someone, or did it harm someone?
This gun has a history, but I can assure now, it has no future.
What a terrible day for our fair city and the men who lost their lives just by going to work. And, of course, there is Officer Eric Kelly who couldn't help but go to the aid of his brothers-in-arms, even though he had finished his scheduled shift. That is truly above and beyond the call of duty, but I know in my heart that the other two officers -- Paul Sciullo and Stephen Mayhle -- would have reacted in the same heroic manner if they were in his shoes.
I want to extend my deepest condolences to their families and friends. The whole city is in mourning and will be for a long time. And a huge thanks to the paramedics, who I know played an essential role in this terrible drama. My heart goes out to all of you.
There have been numerous shootings across the United States in the past month. They were all tragic situations, some involving children. Can we please, please let go of the semi-automatic weapons that are certainly not needed for anything but murder? I am so weary of hearing that old mantra: "We have the right to kill our animals for food." Really? Then follow my great-grandfather and grandfather and take up the bow and arrow. Then you can be called a true huntsman.
My prayer for them
As a native Pittsburgher, my prayers go out to the families of the fallen officers. The officers are heroes, and I pray that God gives their families comfort and peace during this difficult time.
TAWANDA W. JOHNSON
The PG appears to be uninformed about beer distribution
As a D-licensed distributor of beer for 33 years, I find it amusing that someone would editorialize on a subject that he apparently knows nothing about ("Beer Here? Giant Eagle's Six-Pack Plan Deserves to Succeed," March 31). This issue is about more than six-packs being available at your local grocery store because of a "happy quirk in the state liquor law." But to the casual observer to the beer in supermarkets, the only interest in the final outcome is convenience.
The reference to your neighborhood beer distributor having a monopoly is ludicrous. By definition, a monopoly is a unified control over supply or distribution so complete that it makes possible the regulation of price with the final outcome being the elimination of competition. I think that title would fall to the large store chains and importing distributors. By state law, a beer distributor must purchase product from an importing distributor who tells them how much to buy, when to take delivery, how the trucks are to be unloaded and what they are to pay for the product. One distributor can be charged $10 for a package and another can be charged $5 for the same package. A D-distributor cannot purchase beer from any other supplier than the one established by state territorial law. Is that fair to a D-distributor's consumer?
The opposition of the Malt Beverage Distributor Association is warranted, as with any other group that lobbies for its respective industry. Everyone talks of saving the small businesses in this country and that's what the association is doing. Walk around your neighborhood and look for a bakery, floral shop, dry cleaner, gas station or butcher shop not affiliated with a supermarket. Not too many left.
The Post-Gazette should investigate what is really happening in this industry. The beer distributor is not the bad guy here.
Kasunick's Distributing Inc.
Where did this misguided fool get the hare-brained idea that the Obama administration was going to take away guns ("Deadly Ambush Claims the Lives of 3 City Police Officers," April 5)?
From right-wing radio? One of the greatest dangers to American society today is the paranoia spewed out by Limbaugh, Hannity and all these local right-wing talk show hosts. People believe their nonsense.
No one, ever, in Congress has proposed that guns be eliminated. There have been attempts to place some controls on some of these high-powered assault rifles and combat-type weapons.
The multiple shootings over the past month -- in different parts of the country suggest strongly that attempts to eliminate traffic in these high-powered weapons that in no way, shape or form are hunting weapons are not without merit.
America is going to self-destruct if this paranoid, romanticized nonsense about guns does not cease.
Rethink domestic-dispute procedures
My deepest condolences to the families, friends and the people of Pittsburgh as well as those of all law-enforcement families in America.
After reading what happened in Oakland, Calif., and in Pittsburgh, I am of the opinion that police officers should employ a different tactic when handling domestic disputes. Most of these seemingly harmless situations lead to the killing of the people trying to render assistance.
My opinion, as a concerned citizen, is for the police to position themselves outside the building and announce their presence by means of a loudspeaker asking that the combatants come out of the dwelling with hands raised, as a precaution.
Once these individuals have shown themselves, the police can then proceed to frisk them and begin their interrogations. In situations in which the combatants do not come out of the dwelling, and after many unsuccessful attempts by loudspeaker, the police should announce that tear gas will be shot into the building.
Hopefully, these procedures, once deployed, will create a much safer environment for the brave police officers protecting our communities.
Las Vegas, Nev.
Drug prohibition has failed
Leonard Pitts Jr. is wrong in thinking that some redeeming feature might be found in America's drug crusade ("We've Lost the Drug War," April 3). After more than 90 years of utter failure there is no room for doubt about the ineffectiveness of drug prohibition.
America's drug crusade is the primary source for crime and there is no end in sight. Since drug prohibition is working against us, it is time to stop.
Ending drug prohibition will end the international drug cartels, put a stop to "drug crime" and save the country hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
Daly City, Calif.
Card check and intimidation
Unions claim they won't use intimidation as one of their tactics if the Employee Free Choice Act, aka "card check," is passed, eliminating the secret ballot in union elections. But their behavior at a rally held by those opposed to card check illustrates exactly what workers should fear when these organizers show up at their homes.
James O'Toole's March 31 article ("Joe the Plumber Still on Stump") on the event reads, "Mr. Wurzelbacher ['Joe the Plumber'] ... competed with calls of 'liar,' 'pay your taxes,' and a few more colorful words from the sizable union contingent that had migrated from a demonstration outside to infiltrate the audience."
The saga of Joe the Plumber is one of constant intimidation by unions and their political allies. Officials with the state of Ohio illegally released private information about Mr. Wurzelbacher after he asked Barack Obama a tough question, revealing he owed back taxes -- putting him in a category with several Obama Cabinet appointees.
The unions attacked Joe "the Plumber" for not having a government-sanctioned plumber's license. But professional licensing is just another tool used by unions, business cartels and special-interest groups to undermine their competition. Innocuous professions like plumber, eBay sellers, drivers for the Amish, hair braiders, tour guides and the like are subject to harassment under the guise of occupational licensing -- frequently having their right to earn a living in their chosen profession revoked.
The long history of union intimidation is just one reason why the secret ballot must be preserved.
NATHAN A. BENEFIELD
Director of Policy Research
American taxpayers have just bailed out Wall Street high rollers to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars at the same time unemployment has hit 8.5 percent and more people every day are becoming homeless and living out of their cars or worse.
So syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer ("Obama's Ultimate Agenda Is Social and Economic Leveling," April 4) and other conservatives fret about Barack Obama's nonexistent plans to "level" the income between rich and poor.
The gap between the average CEO's annual income and the average worker's widens from 50 to 100 to 200 times so Mr. Krauthammer and the conservatives whip up fear of Mr. Obama's nonexistent plans to "level" the gap between rich and poor. Millions lose their jobs, conservative governors refuse federal stimulus aid for unemployment relief in their states, while AIG hedge fund managers nearly bring the world's economy to its knees and get more in bonuses than the average working man would see in income if he lived to be 500 ? yet Mr. Krauthammer and the conservatives make up lies about a nonexistent Obama threat to "level" the gap between rich and poor (oh the horror, the horror ?).
Our budget has a serious money deficit, but that is nothing compared with the average conservative's sanity deficit. A more clueless bunch of ideological losers could be found only among the conservatives in the Kremlin in the last days of the Soviet era.
PAUL E. VONDRA
Campaign finance reform, a slippery slope
While the political establishment of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County ponder whether to enact so-called campaign-finance reform ("City and County Councils Explore Campaign Reform," March 25), it's worth considering the danger to the First Amendment posed by limits on citizens' ability to support or oppose the candidates of their choice.
The threat to free speech by such limits has rarely been more clear than in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court argued on the same day as the hearing before City Council. In that case the U.S. solicitor general, arguing in support of campaign finance limits, said that under these laws it would be OK for the government to ban books mentioning a political candidate.
This, ultimately, is where so-called campaign finance reform takes us -- government suppression of political speech that those in power find troublesome. The citizens of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County should carefully consider whether this is the road they want to go down.
Center for Competitive Politics
The writer's organization is a First Amendment advocacy group focused on campaign-finance regulations.
The pope got it wrong
The recent statements of Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to HIV/AIDS-ravaged Africa that "condoms are not the answer to the AIDS epidemic and can make the problem worse" has resulted in serious criticism by many. It was difficult for me to decide on the appropriate adjective to describe the pope's remarks: naive, simplistic and even ignorant came to mind.
But whatever word is used, the pope's belief about condoms has been challenged by those in the field attempting to deal with the ravages of this disease. Rebecca Hodes, head of policy, communication and research with The Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, agrees with the pope that "condoms are not the sole solution to Africa's AIDS epidemic, but they are one of the few very proven measures to prevent HIV infections." Even some priests and nuns caring for those infected question the church's opposition to condoms amid the pandemic in Africa.
With 22 million Africans infected with this deadly disease, many children contracted it from their parents who have already died. I wonder if the pope could look into their helpless and pain-filled eyes and realize that if condoms had been available, the parents may still be living and this child may not be facing death.
As a well-educated mother, grandmother and practicing Catholic, I find the church's position, at least spoken by the pope, to be reprehensible and archaic and makes no sense in a world that is in peril with deadly sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS.
Meanwhile, as Tony Norman said so well in his March 20 column ("The Pope's Message of No Hope on AIDS"): "Many Catholics will point out that the pope is error-free only when it comes to issues of faith and doctrine. They feel free to ignore his pronouncements on everything else from sexual ethics to war." I am finding it very difficult to ignore his position on the use of condoms.
LILLIAN L. MEYERS
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First Published April 9, 2009 12:00 am