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The Debate Over Guns and the People Who Own Them

September 19, 1993

* Scott Harris ("My Briefcase, My Lunch Box, My Gun," Sept. 9) puts forth the dubious notion so often repeated in the pages of The Times that guns, in and of themselves, are the root cause of crime and that axiomatically more guns equals more crime.

Taking that leap of faith one step beyond, Harris suggests that if more guns find their way into the hands of those without criminal backgrounds or murderous intent, then surely we are all going to die.

To that, Mr. Harris, I have only two words to say: Get real.

But to the Los Angeles Times and its readers, I would like to say this:

The cause of ever-increasing violence in this city and this nation is not the result of any calculable (or otherwise) number of guns, knives or even bricks. The root cause is the well-founded perception that if you commit an act of brutality or even murder, you will probably get away with it.

And why are there so many who place no value whatsoever on the sanctity of life itself? Why should they? Our own criminal justice system routinely hands out the most minimal sentences, or merely imposes parole or even community service for the taking of a life.

If only The Times would preach with the same religious fervor for desperately needed criminal justice reform instead of the sorry substitute of gun control.

RON YORKE

Reseda

* Scott Harris quotes Lt. John Dunkin of the Los Angeles Police Department, telling of what scientific circles call anecdotal evidence relating to incidents involving privately owned firearms.

While this makes good emotional copy, cold, hard, statistical evidence makes quite a different case.

Speaking as a sworn peace officer, I can tell you that the cops' view of society is quite different from the general public's and has its own distortions, especially since we deal with dregs far more than the average person.

There is good, scientifically valid evidence that legal possession of guns prevents or stops many more crimes than those in which they may be part of the cause.

Prof. Gary Kleck, a liberal Democrat and criminologist at Florida State University, shows that civilians use their privately owned firearms 1.4 million times a year to stop or prevent a crime, without anyone being shot 99% of the time. Most of these incidents are not reported and therefore are not seen by police officers like Lt. Dunkin.

Kleck has also shown in his research that each year, 1,500 to 2,800 criminals "are lawfully killed by gun-wielding American civilians in justifiable or excusable homicides, far more than are killed by police officers." The data for this research was from sources funded by gun-control and gun-banning groups.

Mr. Harris' somewhat snide remarks about police protection of individuals show a lack of knowledge of state and federal law.

Neither state nor local government has any legal requirement to provide crime protection to an individual, only to the community as a whole, and no government entity or employee has any liability for failure to do so.

LEE F. MELLINGER

Van Nuys

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