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Owning guns is a right that should be well-regulated

The second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

It would be fair to note the power of a single sentence. How some can infer that those well-chosen words should allow my neighbors to posses an arsenal to defend themselves from any threat is ludicrous.

The words "well-regulated" speak for themselves. All law-abiding citizens who choose to own weapons should be allowed the right, subject to the ownership being well-regulated.

1. All gun owners must be licensed. A background check similar to what I went through to get a real estate license in California ought to be sufficient. Finger prints to the state and FBI and no felony convictions.

2. Each gun owner and members of the family of school age should undergo an appropriate gun safety course.

3. Each gun owner should provide proof that they posses an approved lockable safe for all guns and ammunition.

4. Persons requiring a concealed weapons permit should undergo a much more thorough check and be required to take a specific safety course for their type of use.

5. Any unlicensed person found in the possession of a firearm should be guilty of a felony and spend a minimum of one year in jail.

If these regulations were in place and all rifles were limited to five shot clips and handguns limited to ten shots, I wouldn't care if the rifle looks like Davey Crockett's "Old Betsy" or something out of Star Wars.

Let us stop the rhetoric and take our forefathers'advice. There will be those who will say, "When the government finally decides to take over, the first thing they'll do is round up all them registered gun owners and lock 'em up in them secret prison camps." We, the people, are the government, and if we lose sight of that then we have already lost _ lock, stock and barrel.

James Rhodes, Palm Harbor

Limits on guns are a beginning

Re: Gun control becomes a shell game.

John R. Lott Jr.'s April 18 column berates the Clinton administration for the little gun control Clinton has managed to pass.

The assault gun ban of 1994 and now a further ban on 58 foreign-made guns may be of small import on the overall use of guns or may affect crime statistics in the United States very little, but it's a start. If a visitor from another planet were to read Lott's column, this visitor would assume we have no penal or justice system to deal with criminal activity. However, we do have an extensive criminal and justice system, and we citizens support these agencies to keep our streets safe.

To think that a statement such as "Urban poor people with guns are more able to defend themselves than those without weapons" could be written and expected to be accepted as a matter of course questions the effectiveness of a civilized society. I'm sure if Clinton's administration could, it would make ownership of all guns except hunting rifles illegal. As it is, it has had to be content with the ban of assault guns in 1994 and now, of 58 foreign-made guns.

We apparently don't make enough "deadly" weapons at home to use in killing our people; we argue about the ban to import more "deadly" weapons. These are strange times.

Sally Ann Hill, Clearwater

Punish gun misuse, not ownership

Re: Gun control becomes a shell game, by John R. Lott Jr., April 18.

Bill Clinton's gun control policy is show rather than substance, as Lott states. The banning of firearms will not prevent the criminal element from obtaining a gun to perpetrate a crime.

Why not recommend a federal law in the application of the gun rather than its availability? Should a gun be used in the commission of a crime and the user found guilty, mandate a sentence of life in prison without parole. If a gun is fired in the act of committing a crime and the perpetrator found guilty, enact the death sentence.

I dare say that the use of this weapon would be substantially reduced and the National Rifle Association would be 100-percent in favor of such a law, as would the majority of Americans.

John A. Welch, Spring Hill

Misguided compassion

Re: Clinton likes needle trade strategy but won't pay, April 21.

Why not? Shouldn't the government fund clean needles for our unfortunate citizens who are unable to "just say no"? It's cruel to let them get sick while they're in the process of breaking the law and killing themselves with their addiction.

And while we're at it, we need a government-funded program that will provide bodyguards for all rapists, muggers, and murderers. After all, if their victims were to fight back, they might get hurt. My gosh, they could be bitten _ and everyone knows bites can spread the HIV virus!

Let's have some compassion for those who suffer from "COLS" (Can't Obey the Law Syndrome).

Ann Billard, New Port Richey

Genocide is ignored again and again

As Pol Pot's ashes floated into the sky above his funeral pyre on April 18, he took a terrible legacy with him. However, he left a different legacy behind. Not a legacy of the Khmer Rouge or of the victims of the killing fields, but rather one of neglect and indifference on the part of the West _ a West that failed to live up to its self-appointed responsibilities after World War II, when the free nations of the world fully grasped the horrors of the Holocaust and collectively proclaimed, "never again."

Yet we let it happen again, provided that the victims of genocide are sufficiently removed from us in location, culture, religion or race. Only after the fact do we come to terms with our guilt; our leaders go to the place of sorrow and say, "we should have done something."

At the same time, we maintain the lie. Never again. It happened in Cambodia. Never again. It happened in Bosnia. Never again. It happened in Rwanda. Never again. Where will it happen next?

Matt Stinson, Holiday

Don't deny our own poverty

Why did everyone get upset when Jane Fonda referred to some parts of Georgia as being like a Third World country? Why did the governor of Georgia, Zell Miller, get so mad? Was Jane lying?

It's not just Georgia. There are places in every state that look like Third World countries: the hills of the Tennessee, the bottoms of Mississippi, the flats of Arkansas, just to name a few.

America tries to put out an image to the rest of the world, that everyone here lives the "good life." If Gov. Miller is so upset, he should do something about the situation, rather than attacking a fellow American who is only speaking the truth!

Kathy Pyfer, Tarpon Springs

Florida Progress plans for the future

Florida Progress does not have a "For Sale" sign on its door. We are not waiting for, or seeking, a "savior," to use the words of your April 26 headline (Florida Progress in search of savior).

The supposed "analysis" the Times printed on Sunday seriously missed the mark. It failed to communicate the state of the U.S. electric industry, or Florida Progress' strong position and growth plans within our state and that industry. The article also got facts just plain wrong.

The simple truth is that as strong as Florida Progress and other Florida-based utilities are, the U.S. electric industry stands poised for a great round of consolidation. The logic is simple and compelling _ today there are more than 120 major electric utilities. That compares with 10 major local telephone companies. Efficiency, logic and the drive to deliver better customer service and value all argue to reduce the number of players in the utility sector, as the companies in the industry build market share.

Florida Progress has a clear goal to grow in size to serve 10 percent of the U.S. market _ we think that's the number that ensures continued corporate health and future growth. The issue faced by Florida Progress and all other utilities that have such a clear vision is how to grow while remaining in control of their destinies in order to maximize value for shareholders, employees and customers.

As the Times has reported in the past, Florida Progress is prepared to consider all possibilities to achieve that goal of market share growth _ including acquisitions, alliances, even (and I stress the word "even") mergers.

That was why we entertained talks with Scottish Power _ a company that shares a similar vision of the U.S. market dynamics, and which could have offered us additional resources to build toward a shared vision. But in the end, we simply could not come to agreement on the terms. That's how it is in business.

But just because that relationship didn't work out does not mean that we are sitting alone by the telephone. We have a growth plan and a growth vision and intend to carry it out.

Finally, I would note that it is tiresome to see your reporters make constant reference to a supposed "secret board meeting in New Orleans" that was never planned. They ought to check their alleged sources _ and you as editors ought to question more carefully those and other supposed details from these mysterious unnamed sources.

Richard Korpan, president and chief executive officer,

Florida Progress Corp., St. Petersburg

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