Florida state parks
Get out and enjoy Florida's parks
I love Florida winters. The temperatures are just right to take that long hike on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, gather family and friends around the campfire at Myakka River State Park or retreat after a fun day of kayaking to a cozy cabin at Lake Louisa State Park.
The winter season is a special time for our state parks as they host many holiday-themed events and seasonal tours. We have seen a record number of visitors in recent months at some of our special holiday events, so I know the parks inspire and help keep up the holiday spirit throughout the winter.
I encourage Floridians and visitors to continue this trend in 2013. Start the New Year right by participating in America's State Parks First Day Hikes on Jan. 1. More than 60 of Florida's state parks and trails are hosting events, the most events in the country. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family.
Donald V. Forgione, director, Florida Park Service
Weapon without reason | Dec. 21, letter
Proper gun for the purpose
The writer states: "In my opinion, there is no good reason for a citizen to possess a semiautomatic weapon."
There seems to be a lot of public confusion about what a semiautomatic weapon is. It is not a machine gun (fully automatic weapon). Semiautomatic simply means that a firearm shoots one bullet when the trigger is pulled and automatically chambers another round.
The vast majority of firearms are semiautomatic. The exceptions include single-shot firearms, single-action revolvers and pump shotguns. Most firearms, going back to Colt double-action revolvers from the 1800s, are technically semiautomatic.
Assault weaponry such as an AR-15 is not really suitable for home defense and you'd look mighty dumb hunting game with it. For home defense, a short pump 12 gauge would probably be best.
The writer is correct that fully automatic weapons and high-powered assault rifles should be permitted only to law enforcement and the military. They are really designed only to kill people.
Pete Wilford, Holiday
Hold officials to account
I would like the Times to publish the names of all elected officials in Florida, and all of those elected nationally whom Floridians are eligible to vote for, who receive any funds from the NRA or any pro-firearm lobby. I will never vote for any of them again, no matter their party affiliation.
Rich Eschen, Hernando
Lessons from Australia
In 1996 Australia had its worst mass shooting. They passed comprehensive gun safety laws. Before 1996 they averaged one mass shooting per year. Since then they have had no mass shootings.
The argument that cities like Chicago have high rates of gun violence despite tough gun laws ignores the fact that guns are easily available in neighboring states. The real test of gun restrictions is in countries where guns are tightly controlled and mass shootings are rare.
The Australian city where the 1996 mass shooting occurred? Newtown.
Joel Price, Dade City
Nation as an armed camp
The NRA says put armed guards in all our schools to protect our children. So maybe we need to have armed guards in our libraries to protect our children. That would mean we need armed guards in the movie houses to protect our children. How about on all of the playgrounds, on the beaches, in our churches and restaurants? Maybe the entire United States needs to become an armed camp.
What a wonderful country we are giving our children.
Susan Nichols, St. Petersburg
Fresh thinking on safety
We all agree that something has to be done to better protect children in our schools. But the idea of arming our teachers is just an accident waiting to happen. We need to employ new ideas.
One of them could be to equip classrooms with steel, automatically locking doors. If trouble starts somewhere on campus, a centralized locking system could be engaged to secure the classrooms and mitigate possible mayhem.
I know that sounds like a prison. It's sad.
Tony Abbate, Valrico
Arguments don't add up
According to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, U.S. gun violence is caused by violent video games and movies as well as lax law enforcement. Someone must have forgotten to tell him that video games and movies are actually a worldwide phenomenon. Japan had two gun deaths in 2008 and Britain had 36 in 2011. Contrast this with the 12,000 to 15,000 that occurred in the United States during that time.
In Florida our Legislature has worked hand in hand with the NRA to water down or do away with restrictions on guns. I doubt this is what he means by lax law enforcement.
Steve Harden, Holiday
Poor results from red-light cameras Dec. 20, editorial
Follow the facts
About eight years ago while I was living in Atlanta, American Traffic Systems installed and operated red-light cameras across the state of Georgia. Just as happened here, red-light rear-end crashes increased significantly at the intersections with cameras. Residents complained, and their legislators listened.
Since studies showed that 79 percent of violations occurred within only one second of the light turning red, the Georgia legislature passed a statute requiring that one second be added to the standard yellow time of any intersection that had a red-light camera. This led to a significant reduction in rear-end collisions and an 80 percent reduction in tickets.
Of course it also led to an 80 percent reduction in revenues, making the red-light cameras less profitable. But, since our politicians are adamant that the red-light cameras in our state are not just about collecting revenue, perhaps they could give the Georgia solution a try.
Chet Meisner, Lutz