Letters to the editor
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The 'guns are inanimate objects' excuse is absurd
I am responding to Jackie Merranko's April 14 letter ("Let's Put the Blame Where It's Due"). She wrote, "A gun left by itself is useless" and "A gun is no different than any instrument in your home that could be used as a weapon" and "It's time to stop blaming inanimate objects and other people for this tragedy." This seems to be the common excuse for not making sure that disturbed people like the killer of the Pittsburgh police officers are unable to purchase guns, especially assault-type weapons.
Using this logic, let's substitute the words "rocket-propelled grenade" or "bazooka" for the word "gun" in your sentences. This clearly demonstrates the absurdity of this excuse. Taken a step further, why should the U.S. worry about Iran or North Korea having a nuclear bomb if it's just an "inanimate object"?
The sad truth is that guns -- just like rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons -- are very different in the hands of people who want to inflict serious harm. The entire purpose of an automatic or semi-automatic weapon is to be able to hit the target in rapid succession, giving the shooter the upper hand because the person or object being shot at cannot respond. There is plenty of blame to go around and it starts with the gunman, Richard Poplawski. But if he had not been able to purchase the AK-47 that he used, maybe our heroic officers would have had the chance they deserve. And the blame for that is on all of us.
For the greater good
First I want to say I am a gun owner and have a father who is a hunter and uncles who are hunters. We would never stand for the government taking our guns away. We all, however, believe there should be a ban on AK-47s and similar high-powered weapons.
I read Jackie Merranko's April 14 letter ("Let's Put the Blame Where It's Due"). Yes, we do know that guns don't get up and shoot themselves and that people must shoot them. But to give extremist people the chance to own these super weapons is ridiculous.
On a global scale we do not want Iran to have nuclear weapons, because its leaders are extremists. On a local level, we don't want these nuts to have these super AK-47s and assault rifles because it is like giving Iran nuclear weapons. We let them have conventional weapons because they can't do the damage a nuclear weapon does.
But do you not see that an AK-47-type gun on the street level is like a nuclear weapon? It has absolutely no purpose except to kill as many people as possible. I know they are fun to shoot, but we can give that up for the greater good.
Also you couch potatoes: You are not going to stop the invading hordes with your assault rifles. A well-trained army would pour over you.
The Constitution allows guns. However, it was written when the founders did not know there would be these super weapons.
Come on, let's have some sense. Let's outlaw these types of weapons.
Are the police "outgunned"? According to Gov. Ed Rendell, they are ("Rendell Prods Lawmakers on Gun Control," April 15). Basing his latest comment largely on the recent police tragedy in Pittsburgh, the governor would presumably want the public to know that the bad actors have more and better firepower than the police. From what I (or any observant citizen) could see from the television coverage accorded the shootout in Stanton Heights, the SWAT men in full tactical gear and the armored SWAT vehicle offered sufficient reassurance that the cops could bring to bear sufficient firepower to overcome any bad actor.
On the other hand, if the police are outgunned, whose fault is that? Who provides funds and direction for equipping our police forces? Hmmm. Could it be the government? If that's the case, perhaps our more civic-minded gun owners might want to donate their assault rifles to the police to better equip them.
It's always an easy claim that "assault weapons" are the problem. To claim that the police are outgunned (especially in referring to the Pittsburgh tragedy) is patently false and preys on a general public ignorance of firearms, the police department and the government. As has been officially admitted, it was a communications error that allowed three savvy police officers to go into harm's way without knowing what danger was ahead. If they had been properly informed of weapons involved, the outcome could well have been a far better one for the police.
JAMES D. YOUNG
Regarding the letter "He Only Helped to Further the Gun-Control Cause" (April 9): The key word in the letter was "twisted." The actions of a twisted mind are equally twisted and rarely bear any logic to whatever "cause" they are attempting to promote. My hope is that the general public is capable of reason and realizes that Richard Poplawski's act isn't a call for general gun control. Those three officers didn't die because of guns but by guns in the wrong hands.
A friend of mine expressed this analogy: We all have cars, but some operate them recklessly, some while drunk, causing death or injury. Should the government then take cars away from everyone? Taking cars from everyone would solve the problem of innocent people dying in car accidents, would it not? Doing so, of course, would be silly and irrational, and it is equally irrational to ban guns from use by everyone because some misuse or are careless with them.
Taking guns from ordinary, law-abiding citizens will only further endanger us. We will be left defenseless while the criminals, who care nothing about laws, will continue to illegally obtain guns. Most who use guns violently use "illegal" weapons anyway.
I'm sure organized crime is drooling at the thought of gun control. Banning guns (or making it too expensive for the average citizen to operate them) will take income from decent shop owners and give a very lucrative income to organized crime groups. Guns have always been part of our culture; they are here to stay. Having them remain legally is far less dangerous than illegally.
Grateful to him
I am saddened by the news that Ron Yoder died ("Ron Yoder: Owned Shadyside Record Store," April 17 news obituary). He was an innovative presence within the Oakland and Shadyside business communities. He provided me the opportunity to do something I loved -- cooking in a restaurant -- even though I had no formal training.
For a few precious years an outstanding and interesting group of characters made their way through the doors of his restaurant, Cornucopia. I'm grateful to have known Ron and thank him for facilitating many other friendships.
Pa. deserves protection for more of its wilderness
Don Hopey captured the enthusiasm of West Virginians over the new wilderness areas in Monongahela National Forest ("Wild, Wonderful West Virginia Gets Wilder," April 12). It is high time that Pennsylvanians were afforded a similar cause for excitement.
As he noted, Friends of Allegheny Wilderness has been leading a citizen effort to protect some of the wilderness left in Allegheny National Forest, located 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. When the U.S. Forest Service issued a plan for the forest, 6,800 of the 8,200 public comments urged protection of more wilderness in the Allegheny. Many pointed out the need for greater balance between protected areas and lands available to the oil and gas and logging industries. So far only 2 percent of the forest has been protected as wilderness, and the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness citizen proposal would take that figure to just 12 percent.
Wilderness not only provides the American people with world-class recreation and wildlife habitat. Its watersheds supply us with clean water and healthy fisheries, its trees clean our air, and its appeal to boaters, campers, hunters and other outdoors lovers brings dollars into the local economy.
I urge readers to contact those who represent them in Congress in support of protecting more Allegheny forest land. Let's remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt: "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."
WILLIAM H. MEADOWS
The Wilderness Society
A public servant who serves the public?
The story "Open-Records Czar Rebuffed" (April 11) indicates that Terry Mutchler, executive director of Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records, seems to competently and honestly execute her sworn obligation to implement the spirit of the Open Records Law restrained only by its letter.
Gov. Ed Rendell has had a flawless record of appointing compliant hacks to key positions in his administration until now. The article on Terry Mutchler's disagreements with the administration indicates that Gov. Rendell has faltered and seems to have appointed a public servant who seems to think she is supposed to serve the public rather than the governor.
Have I misread the news?
Bryn Mawr, Pa.
Passenger rail: The best way to go
I am encouraged to read that Pennsylvania will compete for stimulus package money to finance railroad construction ("Pennsylvania Part of Plan for High-Speed Trains Across the Nation," April 17). The widespread abandonment of the railroads in the middle part of the 20th century was one of our nation's most tragic domestic missteps. The recent energy crisis illustrates the dangers of complete reliance on the automobile.
True, the initial investment in railroads may be high, but in the long run they outperform all other forms of transportation in energy efficiency, comfort and reliability. Any trip to Europe demonstrates the great value and convenience of a large, well-financed passenger network. By improving our infrastructure, we will take cars off our roads, create jobs, facilitate tourism and decrease the costs (in time and money) of travel. Our state was a leader in the initial boom of train travel, and I hope it will be a leader in its renaissance.
All this pain because of paranoia
My heartfelt sympathy goes out to families and friends of the three city of Pittsburgh police officers who were recently killed in the line of duty. No words can possibly express the pain they are feeling now.
To me the most disheartening thing is that Richard Poplawski thought his rights were being infringed upon, and they weren't. He said that President Obama was going to take away his guns, which is just complete hogwash and paranoia. We still have the right to freedom of assembly, religion, speech, expression -- and, of all things, the right to bear arms.
God bless our public servants.
Our forefathers never envisioned this
On April 4, a lovely spring morning, we were getting ready to attend a wedding, a beautiful beginning of life for two young people. At the same time the lives of three police officers were ending in a senseless bloody massacre.
Our way home from the wedding took us past the Zone 5 police station, where the parking lot was filled to capacity and vehicles lined both sides of Washington Boulevard as the police department gathered to console its members.
Coincidentally, our car radio scanned through a call-in show where the host and a caller were mourning the events of the day and societal decay, in general. They were in agreement that our police and our citizens need to be more heavily armed. They opposed any regulation of firearms because the "bad guys" already have their guns and there are so many guns out there that there is no sense in limiting access to assault rifles, automatic pistols, etc., that are intended for use against human beings because this would leave only the good people unprotected.
I maintain that we have to start somewhere to curb the violence. Our forefathers did not intend our rights to keep and bear arms as a license to impose our individual perceptions of justice and righteousness or to settle disputes among ourselves or with our government. Our forefathers guaranteed the right to have firearms for hunting or sport or the defense of our homes, as is endorsed by our present-day leaders. But, our forefathers could never have envisioned a day like April 4, 2009, or so many others in our annals, when one feels entitled to end the life of another, randomly or with premeditation, frequently over some trivial issue, and sometimes claiming innocent bystanders as "collateral damage." These signal acts are assaults on us all, collectively and individually, in their ability to horrify and sadden us.
For those who oppose gun control the axiom that "guns don't kill people; people kill people" is used frequently to bolster the defense of their position. If that is the case, why would anyone need an assault weapon for personal use? As Vice President Joe Biden said recently, "We have to do something about the guns." There is no perfect or absolute solution. But we do have to act. It is common sense. It is the right and decent thing to do. It would affirm the value of lives tragically lost and serve as commemoration of the sacrifice made by these defenders of our individual rights and safety.
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First Published April 22, 2009 12:00 am