Issue of controls far from settled | Dec. 18
Laws can work to stem violence
The National Firearms Act of 1934, as amended, has been effective in almost eliminating the criminal misuse of fully automatic weapons. The act was such a success in controlling submachine guns and other gangster-type weapons, such as sawed-off shotguns, silencers, etc., that Congress passed the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. This law was weak and ineffective so Congress tried to strengthen it with the Gun Control Act of 1968, which also regulated the interstate trafficking of firearms.
During my 30-year career as an ATF agent, I and my fellow agents used the provisions of these laws for many search and arrest warrants involving everything from narcotics traffickers to violent criminal gangs. It is impossible to measure the number of violent crimes that were not committed due to a person being arrested for lying during the acquisition of a firearm, possessing a firearm as a convicted felon or possessing an unregistered sawed-off shotgun, for example. Based on my experience, the number is substantial. The current federal gun laws are enforced and they are effective. However, they could be much more effective if it were not for the extremist leadership of certain gun organizations that constantly attempt to weaken such laws.
Could the current laws have prevented the most recent tragedy or some of the other mass shootings? Probably not. However, in the short term, enacting well-thought-out federal legislation would require: a short waiting period and background checks, including for purchases at gun shows; limiting the acquisition of certain types of so-called assault weapons; and limiting magazine capacity. These measures might help prevent or lessen the effect of such attacks.
In the long term, the only effective means of curbing the epidemic of gun violence (short of outlawing guns, which I do not support) is to enact a modified version of the NFA that would require the registration/licensing of all handguns.
John M. Manson, Sun City Center
2nd amendment's meaning has evolved Dec. 19, commentary
Fresh look at amendment
I was struck by the historical possibility this tragedy presents to elevate our understanding of the U.S. Constitution. After viewing the film Lincoln and its story of the birth of the 13th Amendment (which ran counter to our nation's understanding of race and ethnicity), I believe it is now possible to begin a dialogue on the true nature of the 2nd Amendment. It is time that we begin to understand the historical period in which it was crafted and the reasons for its adoption.
Surely if there is any tyranny that now exists, it is the fear of the National Rifle Association's lobbying power. A historical illiteracy perpetuates this fear and paralyzes our ability to view the Constitution as our framers intended — as a living document, to be amended as "we the people" see fit.
Charles Travis IV, Largo
Claim falls flat
I look forward to the day when the contention that "guns keep us safe" is met with the same wry smile we currently offer when we see those old ads that feature doctors endorsing cigarettes. A lie is a lie, no matter who tells it or how often we hear it.
Chip Haynes, Clearwater
A changed world
My father brought guns to school. All the boys did. My father was born in 1913 and began school in about 1919, in a rural area of the South.
Each morning he packed up his books and a rifle and walked to the schoolhouse. After school, he would walk back home and see if he could pick off some meat for the supper table. All the boys did.
Boys being boys, there were sometimes fights. These were decided by fists, not guns, and when one of the boys was on the ground, the fight was over. No kicking, no stabbing, no shooting. Ever.
During that era, there was not one child killed in a school by guns. Yet guns were more freely available then than they are now. Anyone could walk in off the street, put down his money, and walk out of the store with a pistol, rifle or shotgun, and all the ammo he wanted. There was no ID check, just the money.
So why is it not that way now? What changed?
Robert Arvay, Tampa
Weapon without reason
In my opinion, there is no good reason for a citizen to possess a semiautomatic weapon. Whether for hunting or home protection, a semiautomatic weapon, particularly assault weaponry, is akin to catching a butterfly with a shotgun.
In regard to reining in semiautomatic weaponry, I can only say: If not now, when?
William F. Moyse, Ruskin
Right of self-defense
Your editorials keep putting the blame on firearms for unspeakable acts committed by irrational people. You think these people are rushing to gun shows to purchase firearms so they can go on a shooting rampage? Where is your proof of this?
One million people in Florida with concealed weapons permits tells me they can't count on law enforcement to be there in their time of need.
Robert Simister, Seminole
Apology attached to crash statistics | Dec. 14
It's all about money
The theoretical reason behind red-light cameras has merit: to penalize drivers who blow through red lights. Unfortunately, there's theory and then there is reality. The irresponsible driver who passes straight through an intersection when the light is red deserves a ticket. The responsible driver who makes a slow, rolling right-hand turn in a dedicated turning lane after verifying that it is safe to proceed does not. But they both pay the same fine, and interestingly enough, neither driver ends up with any points or an entry on their motor vehicle record.
Does that make any sense? Oh, and if you decide to fight the ticket and you lose, besides paying the fine with additional penalties and court costs, the ticket can now appear on your driving record. Sure sounds to me like a system that was designed to bring in revenue. The reality is these cameras are as much about raising revenue as they are about safety.
Rodger Elgar, Tampa