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Fan Mail From a Flounder? Not Quite

December 07, 1993|SCOTT HARRIS

Ron Yorke of Reseda writes:

Whenever I read your column, I am left with the impression that you are an intelligent,rational, articulate writer accomplished at your craft . . . .

Why, I'm blushing. And as I read Ron's words, I must admit to the impression that Ron Yorke is a reader of exceptionally good taste.

. . . However, whenever the subject is gun control, I have to wonder exactly what kind of drugs are you taking? Are they safe but extremely powerful prescription drugs taken under the close supervision of a psychiatrist who is also an MD? Or is it some bizarre jungle herb injected by William Burroughs or someone? . . .

And such a biting sense of humor!

But since you've asked, well, once upon a time, I inhaled. Well, OK, it was more than once. But that was the '60s. No, wait--it was the '70s. I mean the '70s and '80s. Yeah, that's right. Once in the '70s and once in the '80s. Peer pressure, y'know. Just wanted to fit in. But don't tell my mom, OK?

These days, correspondence is my narcotic. Who needs drugs with letters such as these? The mailperson is my pusher; it's a sad day when I don't get my fix. I'm a junkie for anything but junk mail. Every letter is a new adventure. Some are genuinely mind-expanding.

And readers know that I'm not one to Bogart my mail.

Ron Yorke wrote a good one. Now, let me make it clear here that this Ron Yorke should not be confused with a Ron York who lives on Newcastle Avenue in Reseda. When I tried to call Yorke, I got York. But it was Yorke, not York, who has joined the ranks of readers who've criticized my advocacy of stronger gun control. The most recent of these columns noted that, during the recent 10-day siege of wildfires that claimed three lives in Southern California, the county coroner's office counted 66 deaths due to firearms. (A version that appeared in the Valley Edition, written earlier, had contrasted one fire-related death to 58 firearm deaths over an eight-day period.)

Most of us see the link between guns and gunshot wounds. Yorke, however, suggests that an abundance of firearms isn't a problem in the least. Instead, he blames all the problems on a criminal justice system that is far too lenient with violent criminals.

It's a familiar argument, a classic bit of misdirection out of the National Rifle Assn.'s playbook. It's hard to say that the criminal justice system is doing a dandy job with violent felons. But why does the NRA think there's something contradictory about supporting measures that would, say, ban the sale of assault rifles and measures that would better protect the public from violent felons? Our gun culture is such that teen-age hoodlums today aren't content with switchblades. Now they want Uzis. The gun genie may be out of the bottle--but does that mean we shouldn't try to put it back in?

Some other readers think we should. Inasmuch as Ron Yorke inquired about MDs, it seems appropriate to quote the following, from Dr. and Mrs. L. M. Rosen of Santa Monica:

Thank you for your column . . . . Enclosed is an article from the New England Journal of Medicine, dealing with the dangers of unlimited access to guns in America. We hope the media, and columnists like yourself, keep this issue before the public. My family and I feel we can be shot anywhere, at anytime--no one is safe any more.

The journal study has been widely reported. Investigators found that "homes where homicides occurred were significantly more likely to contain firearms than neighboring homes that were not the scenes of homicides." Investigators found that "keeping a firearm in the home was associated with a risk of homicide nearly three times as high."

Some letters are real downers.

With that in mind, there is just one other letter I'd like to share.

This one concerns an article that appeared the weekend before Thanksgiving about Bob Horn, a former Cal State Northridge political science professor who has been left almost completely paralyzed and on life-support by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Horn, using a special computer, had written in to explain that, while he believes that euthanasia should be legalized, he still finds life worth living. His body may have failed him, but his mind, heart and sense of humor are very much alive.

I interviewed him with the help of his wife, Judy. Bob doesn't speak; he moves his eyebrows, spelling out sentences in code.

Many people say Horn, who specialized in Soviet affairs, is an inspiration. He inspired this from Mark Romano of Glendale, a former student:

What your article didn't mention is how many of his former students are regular visitors at the Horns' even now. Bob and Judy are just that kind of people.

A note on the side: shortly after the attempted coup that nearly toppled Gorbachev, a group of friends were discussing Yeltsin's inevitable rise . . . . The consensus was that it was a good thing that Yeltsin had preserved the nascent democracy. Horn's response has been borne out by events three years down the road, articulated with that "dramatic effect" of which you spoke: "W-h-a-t m-a-k-e-s y-o-u t-h-i-n-k t-h-a-t Y-e-l-t-s-i-n i-s a d-e-m-o-c-r-a-t?"

He has a great mind and a great heart to match his great character and will.

For me, this is much better than drugs.

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