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Why not put handgun control to a referendum?

Re: "Sea change" on handguns, editorial, June 13.

The first paragraph of your editorial tries to inundate the reader with statistics, saying our children are in peril and pediatricians are one in saying, "ban handguns."

The truth of the matter is this: More children 13 and under are killed by drowning than by handguns. In fact, more children 5 and under are killed by poisoning than by handguns.

The old anti-gun lie used "children" up to the age of 21 years old. My question is this: Is this honest reporting and commentary? I have not found the above stats in the Times; I found them in government agencies.

As for your poll of 52 percent of 1,250 adults agreeing that handguns should be banned, where was this poll taken? New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., those bastions of gun prohibition that also have the highest murder rates? Do those 52 percent already have theirs? What about the widow down the street who doesn't? Is she to be denied her right to protect herself without waiting five minutes for police?

But I digress. If you feel 52 percent of Floridians wish for handgun prohibition _ please, by all means, use your First Amendment privilege to take away our Second Amendment right _ you will be surprised. Put it to referendum.

In conclusion, the premise for gun control is faulty. People were killing people for thousands of years before gunpowder. Although the Times doesn't want to admit it, people kill people. You can't prosecute a gun, any more than you can prosecute a car. Dateline NBC tried it, though.

Peter Drain, St. Petersburg

Re: "Sea change" on handguns, editorial, June 13.

Whether it is an old cliche or not, it still applies: Guns do not kill people; people kill people. A person who wants to kill someone, whether it is for a bicycle, a piece of clothing or an offhand remark, will use whatever it takes: a gun, a knife, a baseball bat.

Banning guns, then knives, then baseball bats will not deter the criminal from committing the crime. But it will deny honest, responsible people the most effective means of protecting themselves.

James R. Porter, Tampa

Re: "Sea change" on handguns, editorial, June 13.

The 1990 census counted more than 185-million U.S. citizens of voting age. The Louis Harris survey of 1,250 people constitutes a total statistical sample of less than seven ten-thousandths of 1 percent. Hardly a "sea change" _ more like a drop in the ocean.

Of those surveyed _ how were they selected? Were the questions loaded or slanted? Fifty-two percent (650 people) "agreed" (your word, not mine) that the personal possession of handguns should be banned. Unless those who "agreed" were already brainwashed by Handgun Control Inc., I strongly suspect that this "agreement" was given without giving any thought to the logical consequences of such a law. Its effective enforcement would only be possible in a police state; only the most law-abiding would obey it, and they would stand helpless before the lawless.

Many would choose to break the law rather than be potential victims, and there would be no lack of supply; a black market would spring up overnight. Apparently no one remembers the fiasco brought about by the 18th Amendment, or that the practicality of our present laws regulating narcotics is even now being questioned.

It is easy for those deliberately blind to adverse consequences to mount a soapbox and shout: "There ought to be a law!" To them, I say: "Be careful _ you might get it!"

Joseph R. Gately, St. Petersburg

AIDS is winning the war

While returning from the Ninth International Conference on AIDS, the following thoughts came to mind:

In the war against AIDS, it's clear that the virus is still winning. Every 15 seconds, someone is infected with the virus. The predominant method of spread is by unprotected heterosexual activity. Over 50 percent of these new infections occur in young people under the age of 20. The current drugs, although they improve the length of the "healthy period" of HIV disease, still don't increase the length of life. It's clear that our only cure at this time is prevention. If education programs could be implemented, half of the predicted cases could be prevented.

As a health care provider and educator, I want to thank all those involved in AIDS work. I also challenge all health care providers (especially Bayfront Medical Center) and educators (particularly St. Petersburg Junior College) to immediately develop programs for education about AIDS. It's time to drop the "good old boy" attitude and be responsible.

For now, I can only continue praying that God will somehow protect all the people I care about, particularly those already infected.

Robert J. Wallace, M.D., St. Petersburg

Program works in Clearwater

Re: Project offers a "hand up" for public housing families, May 27.

I read with interest the comments concerning the Tampa Housing Authority's "Self Sufficiency program." Your readers would certainly get the impression that the executive director of the Tampa Housing Authority invented "Self Sufficiency" when, in fact, the program is nine years old, having started as a pilot program in 1984 when HUD selected 50 cities' housing authorities to participate. Clearwater was the city selected in Florida.

Mayor Garvey of Clearwater marshaled the local social service agencies into a task force and acted as chairperson, and Deborah Vincent, executive director of the Clearwater Housing Authority, acted as chief executive officer of the program. They launched one of the most successful Self Sufficiency programs in the country.

When the two-year pilot program ended, the Clearwater Housing Authority, with city support, continued the program and renamed it "Partners in Self Sufficiency." The program was financed by grants and contributions from local businesses.

In 1991, HUD mandated that all housing authorities shall put in place a Self Sufficiency program within one year. At the Clearwater Housing Authority, the phone rang off the hook with calls from housing authorities all over the country requesting assistance in setting up their program.

The number of calls became so disruptive to the day-to-day duties of Deborah Vincent that a two-day seminar was scheduled at the Sheraton Sand Key hotel, sponsored by the Clearwater Housing Authority and PSS. The seminar was limited to the 98 housing authorities in Florida. There were 101 public housing officials in attendance, including about two or three from the Tampa Housing Authority.

Further, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials organization invited Ms. Vincent to conduct seminars at their conferences in Boston and San Francisco.

While we are pleased to know the Tampa Housing Authority has their Self Sufficiency program in place as mandated by HUD, it is not necessary to wait years to see if Audley Evans' plan works. It is working throughout the country, thanks in a large part to the Clearwater Housing Authority.

Howard G. Groth, Chairman, Clearwater Housing

Authority, Clearwater

Learning to live with less

The time has come for all Americans to take a close look at what has happened in the world in the last 30-40 years. Taiwan, China, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, etc., used to be customers for our American-produced steel, copper, aluminum, automobiles, etc. Through the exportation of our technology they now have plants producing these products on their own. Not only enough for their own usage, but due to their, as yet, limited consumer markets, enough for a tremendous export market.

Thus, they are competing with each other for global market share, especially for the chance to participate in the U.S. market. We therefore not only have lost our former customers overseas but our own consumers are buying much of the things we once produced, over there as well. Our ability to reach the former production levels necessary to maintain jobs for our growing work force is going to be extremely difficult.

The worldwide growth of production capacity _ some products produced at very low but adequate wages for where they are paid _ is creating a surplus of supply over demand. In years to come, as these production levels increase worldwide, the ability to maintain high employment in the higher salaried areas of the world will become more and more difficult.

The adjustment of living standards will come under extreme pressures to "equalize." Some going up, others going down. Let's face it, our long run at the top of the heap is now being challenged by those who now have the means to make them real competitors for our world markets. We have to learn to live better with a little less. In fact we may need to change our goals from maximizing profits to maximizing employment so that all our people may participate in this economic marvel _ the United States.

J. T. Kallmoyer, Bayonet Point

Sad chapter in French history

Re: Bousquet's killing removes best chance to try Vichy France, June 13.

Wilbur Landrey's column concerning the roundup of 13,000 Jews in Paris on July 16, 1942, brought sad memories of a tragic era, for among those 13,000 people was my dear mother. She never returned from the concentration camp.

While I am aware that the French police were overzealous and rather anti-Semitic, my personal experience with them was quite different, for on three occasions, after being arrested, I was released by kind-hearted policemen, without the knowledge of their superiors. The first time was in Paris, then in Marseilles and finally in Nice. After joining the French Resistance, I wound up in a marvelous Protestant village called Chambon which was sheltering thousands of Jews. A movie called The Weapons of the Spirit was made in regard to the courage and dedication of the villagers who saved thousands of refugees. This movie was endorsed by Bill Moyers who interviewed Pierre Sauvage, the producer, who was born there.

I hope that this sad chapter of French history can be put, at last, to rest so that we may resume our lives and forget the past. Never again!

Maurice Bartel, Largo

Desperate for reform

Under the direction of Hillary R. Clinton, the task force will soon propose a national health care plan. The pitched battle that follows will pit the forces for reform against powerful interests that are lining up in opposition.

Those who benefit from the current health care system _ drug manufacturers, the American Medical Association, insurance companies and medical equipment manufacturers _ are preparing a massive political onslaught to defeat the "Clinton plan."

This country so desperately needs health care reform.

Please, everyone, let us inform one another to write to our senators and representatives on the health care crisis which is affecting us all.

Walter M. Jinga, Clearwater

Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, (FAX number, 893-8675). They must include the handwritten signature and address of the writer. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

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