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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Gun Control, Self-Control

October 25, 2003

Re Richard North Patterson's "Slaughterhouse of Civilization," Commentary, Oct. 20: The issue of gun possession is not one I champion either way. But I view as fuzzy-minded the monomania of firearms repression. Though the gun lobby's sloganeering that attributes killing to people, not weapons, leaves a lot to be answered for, there may in fact be something very American in that claim.

Patterson's gun death figures and his disturbing note that surgeons in the U.S. prepare for combat surgery in urban hospitals should be put up against broader facts. The most heavily armed country per capita in the world is Switzerland, with scant homicides per annum. If that comparison seems too aseptic, then compare Canada. Gun ownership is heavy there while casualties are light. I can attest to vast shotgun ownership in Italy. But the weapons don't get taken to school for the purpose of shooting classmates. American violence boils up from poisoned pits. The same forces that drive our aggressions drive our urge to own guns. It is our society's fears and anger and disappointments that, finally, kill people.

Michael Jondreau

Santa Monica

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You almost had me, Mr. Patterson. But you did something that simply cannot be done in a commentary. You contradicted yourself: "I believe that every law-abiding adult has the right to own a gun for any lawful purpose, whether for sporting use or self-protection." If that is the case, how can you fault the National Rifle Assn. for making sure a rifle manufacturer cannot be sued by victims of a sniper? If the company makes rifles for hunting (one of the lawful sports you spoke of), how can it be responsible for the actions of the Washington snipers? If the dealer broke the law by selling these rifles to a spousal abuser, then go after the crooked gun dealer. Maybe that would have an effect on anyone who decides to sell guns unlawfully. But then again, the gun dealer's pockets probably weren't deep enough.

Andrew Peart

San Marcos

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How could the issue of sensible gun laws be written any more clearly? I intend to cut out Patterson's commentary and have it on hand when I am accused of being a "gun-grabber." When my precious son was murdered with a gun I was outraged and joined Women Against Gun Violence. My underlying sorrow is that I was silent on this issue before his death.

Sheri Barnett

Rancho Palos Verdes

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Patterson neatly packages all of the popular anti-gun arguments and infuses each with the misinformation and stealth he assigns to the gun lobby. Not the least is his claim that the NRA has barred the Centers for Disease Control from investigating the costs and causes of gun violence. In fact, Congress had to limit the CDC's funding to stop the flow of anti-gun rights advocacy research churned out by that agency.

William Vietinghoff

Thousand Oaks

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For the last two decades I have been a practicing emergency physician with a front-row seat to the insane tragedy of our nation's constitutional right to bear arms. I have treated scores of victims who died from gun violence. Unfortunately, none would have lived if all of Patterson's proposals were enacted.

Patterson correctly states that the gun safety movement wants to "make guns safer." But guns by definition are unsafe. Realistically, if guns are legally sold in sporting good stores in every community, does Patterson believe that criminals won't find a way to obtain them? Guns and civilized society are incompatible. Our goal must be the total elimination of all guns in this country.

Jeff Miller MD

Rolling Hills

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Just about everything I read in Patterson's commentary is not only disputable but, in some cases, I believe, is an outright lie or, at least, intellectually dishonest. A prime example is that, as a member of the board of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, he says, "No one I know wants to confiscate guns." Give me a break! However, I do believe one thing that he said: that he is a fiction writer.

Steve Hall

Fontana

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I can hear the screams and shouts from the NRA camp in response to Patterson's excellent commentary. In my opinion, our legislators are very much at fault in contributing to the gun carnage in this country. They accept political contributions from the NRA and then pass the legislation dictated by that organization. We the people can change this deplorable situation by opening our eyes, our minds, our hearts -- and uniting.

Ruth Prinz

Santa Monica

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