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Banning Handguns

November 13, 1994

Re "That Shiny Little Killer in the Closet," editorial Nov. 3:

Jiminy H. Cricket, I wish you would lay off the B-word. I have been around guns and advocated gun control all my life, and I don't give a good goddamn if that 30% (Milwaukee handgun owners who indicated they are willing to turn in their pistols to police) keep guns or not. I know them; they're the rare gun owners who observe every safety precaution, lock up their guns and guard the combination from their children like a state secret. When they sell their guns, you would think they were negotiating a nuclear weapons deal. They don't worry me, and I desperately want such responsible people on my side.

However, I cannot expect them to respect my right to be safe and free from the effects of gun proliferation and irresponsible gun sales and ownership unless I respect their right--and I don't mean constitutional unless they're in the National Guard--to enjoy their pleasures within reasonable restrictions.

There is common ground in this debate. I cannot end this letter without noting that easily concealable guns are the ones to be most concerned about, and that the onus for compromise rests with the handgun owner. I am impatient, and justifiably so, as is everyone else who has examined this issue with a clear head.


Long Beach

* So how does the Oct. 29 assault rifle attack on the White House justify banning assault rifles? Why don't we ban private possession of Cessna airplanes?

Even better, let's stop persecuting each other and look for sensible regulations such as fine-tuning background checks so they can look at out-of-state criminal records. (This would have stopped New York resident Colin Ferguson from buying, from a California gun store, the pistol he would use in the Long Island subway massacre.) The would-be assassin had just gotten out of a military prison before buying the SKS rifle in Colorado. California's background check would have stopped him. Instead of suggesting that Colorado should upgrade its background check system, there were cries that we should ban SKS rifles.

This is like people saying we ought to ban cars to prevent traffic fatalities. Instead we embarked on a long-term commitment to make driver training available in high schools, enforce seat belt laws and stop drunk driving. You might say we don't need guns as badly as we need cars. Then again, it's not your place to tell me what I need or don't need. Three million NRA members obviously feel they need their guns.



* The prison population has doubled since 1984. There are now 1 million people in prison (Oct. 28). Do you feel safer than you did 10 years ago?

Locking people up is obviously not the answer to the crime problem. Training people for jobs, and giving them hope, is one answer. The money that needs to be going into education and job training is going into prisons and jails. It is very largely money wasted.

Passing laws to outlaw possession of automatic weapons, and collecting and destroying those now in private possession and in the hands of gun dealers, would be a second answer. We would have sensible and effective gun laws if scores of thousands wrote Rep. Newt Gingrich and Sen. Bob Dole, saying they held the Republican Party responsible for every crime committed with a gun. Write today. Members of the National Rifle Assn. write often.



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