Woman dies in gun accident | July 28
Gun safety practices are essential
My deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Hoover, a young mother who was shot and killed by the accidental discharge of a firearm.
To the general public, I extend these simple rules to follow when you find yourself around a firearm, lest you join the ranks of the 606 Americans who die annually by "accidental discharge" of a firearm.
Assume every gun is loaded. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready for use.
When "sharing" a revolver, as in this tragic case, its cylinder should be emptied of bullets, and the cylinder should be open before you touch it, pick it up, or it is handed to you.
With a pistol, the magazine should be removed, the slide should be racked back allowing anyone to examine that the chamber is clear.
If you do not see these simple practices being followed, leave the scene for your own safety. Your life depends on it.
Donna Marie Kostreva, St. Petersburg
Cut the federal red tape on used firefighting gear | July 28, commentary
It's not a partisan issue
After reading the column by Adam Putnam, Florida's commissioner of agriculture, one could come away with the impression that President Barack Obama tried to intentionally deny local firefighters surplus military equipment, thereby placing these individuals in greater danger. Furthermore, Putnam indicates that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., apparently alone, caused the Obama administration to "backpedal" on the plan. Putnam casts a very partisan shadow on a surprisingly bipartisan situation.
The Defense Department did cancel the programs that provided surplus vehicles to the firefighters, believing that any transfer would violate EPA regulations. However, the cancellation was quickly reversed by the bipartisan action of Sens. McCain and Barbara Mikuski, D-Md., and 23 other senators representing both political parties. These senators urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to review the matter, which he did immediately.
There are still several issues to resolve, but through the bipartisan efforts of the senators, the problems can be resolved. Putnam's effort to polarize the issue and demonize the president are politics at its lowest. Perhaps Putnam needs another free vacation at the King Ranch, so he can collect and relate his thoughts in a fair and impartial manner in the future.
John Henninger, Clearwater
$17B proposed to fix VA | July 29
Where to find the money
Congress is finally acknowledging that veterans' health care is, and has been, woefully underfunded. That the acknowledgement has taken so long, given that America's troops have been at war for over half of the past 70 years, is disgraceful.
The only issue surrounding granting more funding seems to be how to pay for it. The solution is simple if viewed without influence: Tax corporations within the industrial-military complex that have profited from war. Those that profit from war, including shareholders, should bear a higher burden of cost than society at large.
Dave O'Brien, Belleair Bluffs
Audi to let driverless car loose on Selmon Expressway | July 25
Hype on the highway
I love technology. But driverless cars? They're not, really. It proves once again that with enough hype and a major brand like Audi, you can get a lot of free press for people to buy into a dumb idea like this. Has anybody asked the auto insurance industry how it feels about this huge liability?
Larry Pugliese, Tampa
Stock up, tax-free | July 31
Reforms, not gimmicks
Sales tax holidays like the one in Florida this weekend are poorly targeted, costly and represent a lost opportunity to get tax fairness right.
A three-day sales tax holiday does nothing to provide relief to low-income taxpayers the other 362 days of the year. Holidays offer too little relief to the families that need it most, and they require you to shop when the state says so. Wealthy families benefit from the holiday too, and they have an even greater ability to shift their shopping to take advantage of the tax break.
Sales tax holidays also cost money. Revenue lost through sales tax holidays will have to be made up somewhere else, either through painful spending cuts or increasing other taxes.
Well-intentioned policymakers need to understand that sales tax holidays are simply too insignificant, poorly targeted and too temporary to make a state's tax structure more fair.
Taxpayers should not accept tax-free weekends as a replacement for real reforms that eliminate unnecessary breaks at the top and solve the problems that will still be there, long after this year's holiday has passed.
Kelly Davis, Midwest director, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Whitewater, Wis.
U.S. coal exports put Obama in bind | July 28
Monitor climate change
We now see that President Barack Obama has decided to severely restrict coal use over the next 15 years in order to save the world from overheating by the year 2100 (85 years from now).
I do not disagree that the Earth's temperature is rising, but I do disagree that our industrial society is responsible for all or most of it. Before we start closing coal mines and restricting people's activities, we should ask how bad the problem will be 85 years from now, and what type of technology will be available to combat or correct it.
Of course, no one can answer those questions. It would be comparable to President Andrew Johnson calling a meeting of generals in 1865 and telling them to prepare for a major European war in 85 years. We should monitor the climate situation and, as needed, build seawalls, breakwaters, etc. Who knows how silly today's climate experts will look in 85 years.
Vance Gregory, Seminole