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The threat of hate groups must be taken seriously

A gunman opens fire on children at a Los Angeles Jewish community center. Benjamin Smith goes on a shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana, targeting blacks, Asians and Jews. Three Sacramento synagogues are firebombed. Teenagers enter Columbine High School prepared to murder classmates and teachers. Timothy McVeigh blows up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The common denominator driving the individuals responsible for these heinous acts is not only a deep-seated hatred for minorities and those they perceive as "other," but also the violent acting out of the ideologies and theologies espoused by the white supremacist organizations with which they affiliate. The Aryan Nations, the Order, Christian Identity, the Freemen, the World Church of the Creator and dozens of groups just like them across the country preach racial holy war as the answer to what ails our country.

Sadly, too many members of their "congregations" are ready to take up arms and heed the call.

In the wake of recent tragedies, national discussions on gun control and violence on television are warranted. But perhaps even more critical is the realization that while America has made great strides in overcoming anti-Semitism and racism, there is a cancerous spread of fringe movements that not only justify but also glorify violence against Jews and minorities.

We can no longer dismiss these groups as a renegade band of freaks, kooks or wackos. We must take them seriously and insist that our government open full hearings and investigations into their activities and consider appropriate strategies _ on the national, state and local levels _ for dealing with them. The lives of our children depend on it. Who can afford to gamble when the stakes are that high?

Carol Siegler, president, West Coast Florida Chapter

American Jewish Committee, Sarasota

Hatemongers can devour their own

Re: L.A. shooting suspect jailed, linked to racists, Aug. 12.

Buford O. Furrow Jr. and others like him are woefully ignorant of history and the dynamics of hate. If the concept of love eludes them, perhaps pragmatism may say something to them (but I doubt it).

Racists and hatemongers should realize they are not safe from their own doctrines _ Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin both had loyal followers and supporters put to death for their differences of opinion, both real and imagined. The racist should be aware of the fact that he or she is a potential victim of his or her own thinking and can easily become the target for liquidation by others who are like-minded.

Roger N. Goodling, New Port Richey

Let's limit gun ownership

Re: The Aug. 10 shooting in Los Angeles.

Yes, Mr. Charlton Heston, it is not guns that kill; people kill. But guns are the weapons of choice for many who would kill. They've been glorified in our society, they can be used used impulsively and they allow one to kill from a distance, impersonally.

The American public, including many National Rifle Association members, knows this and supports laws that would allow limited gun ownership on the basis of proper background checks.

So what makes it impossible for our Republican-led Congress to pass intelligent gun-control legislation? How many more instances must occur before our Congress realizes that it is the onset of the 21st century, times have changed and the citizens of this country deserve better than to fear sending their children to school or day camp because of the ready availability of guns to just about anyone?

The answer is not more metal detectors, a ban on backpacks and body searches in schools. The answer is intelligent, enforceable gun-control legislation.

Martin L. Altner, Safety Harbor

More gun laws wouldn't have helped

Re: Shootings in California.

The howling for stricter gun control begins anew among those who fundamentally do not understand what is going on regarding the moves to restrict/outlaw gun ownership in America.

Rather than clamor for more laws restricting gun ownership (California has some of the strictest laws on the books: Look at all the good they did!) maybe we should ask ourselves this instead:

Why wasn't there a good citizen in that center carrying a gun? That citizen could have taken this gunman out before he had a chance to fire those 70 plus shots, wounding so many people and ultimately killing an innocent postman.

Consider also that this shooting was not one of passion nor was it a "heat of the moment" crime. It was planned. It was intentional.

This is the kind of person who, no matter how restrictive our laws are regarding gun control, will find a way to get his hands on weapons. And there is no shortage of criminals out there eager to sell to him. Remember this: When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns!

Vilmar Tavares, Spring Hill

Tragedy and political opportunists

Re: The Aug. 10 shootings in Los Angeles.

Something is wrong besides guns.

How pathetic and disturbing it was, as tragic moments were unfolding and being shown on national television, to hear the voice of California's liberal Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein trying to score more points for gun-control enthusiasts, drowning out the survivors' names being called out to the anxious parents at the Jewish community center shooting.

During these turbulent and depressing moments, our blameless president also was shown on every news channel, using his spin tactics to blame Americans everywhere who own guns.

I don't really feel that these two were really concerned about the situation that was taking place but were taking advantage of an unfortunate situation to garner votes and support for what the polls are telling them.

Guy U. Nash, St. Petersburg

It's not Christian to hate

It is detestable, disgusting and appalling to me that some psychotic wacko attempting murder can call himself a Christian. No true follower of Jesus Christ and his admonitions on life could assault someone in cold blood. How many people did Jesus kill during his earthly ministry? On the contrary, his command was to "turn the other cheek."

Just so non-Christians will know: Our hearts and prayers and love go out to members of the Jewish community for their continued persecution. Please do not think for one minute that true followers of Christ's teachings hate any group. We respect and love all people, who, according to the Bible, are "created in the image and likeness of God."

Michael Harris, Oldsmar

Fund education before cutting taxes

Re: Expect more tax cuts next year, state leaders say, Aug. 6.

With its misleading title, the "A+ Plan" may still be believed by a very few to have improvement of Florida's public schools as its purpose. Let us not be deceived! The plan is designed to undermine free public education and destroy public support. No one can read of proposed tax cuts planned by our governor and his speaker of the House and still believe that their priority is school improvement.

If the Republican leadership in Tallahassee truly had improvement of public education as its first priority, the budget would be planned to properly fund educational needs first. Then we should look at the other needs of our state before even considering a tax cut.

The people of Florida know the crying need for improvement of child protection and other areas of social services. If the House speaker would read reports of underfunded programs designed for the good of the people of our state, he would be embarrassed to propose such a ridiculous priority for the upcoming session as his tax-cut plan.

I suggest that we, the people, must speak up and let our voices be heard. They need to hear our outcry both now and at election time. Let these leaders know that we hold them accountable for following the newest amendments to our state Constitution. I cannot understand how they can ignore the demand that public education must be properly funded. I have a real problem with the process of cutting taxes, then fighting over the leftovers for education, law enforcement, social services and all the other needs of our state.

Fund education first. Cut taxes only if a true surplus remains after every need is funded.

P.S. I am beginning my 32nd year as a public school teacher in Florida, currently at Pine View Middle in Pasco County.

Linda D. McMullen, Land O'Lakes

Recalculating a teacher's workload

Re: Teachers union, county agree on raise, July 31.

I must comment on a statement made by Terry Wilson in this article. He was quoted as saying, "Teaching will not be viewed as a profession if teachers work less than eight hours a day and 12 months a year." The article further states. "The typical classroom teacher works 10 months a year and 7 hours and 35 minutes a day."

The statements need to be corrected to state, "Teachers get paid for working 10 months a year and 7 hours and 35 minutes a day."

Most teachers, like myself, work an average of 10 or more hours a day. I tried to figure out how many hours I worked last school year. I figured I worked more than 11 40-hour weeks without pay. That is not including the numerous 30 minute lunch "hours" missed or the time spent after hours working on school and county level committees, parent conferences, school concerts and events, PTA meetings, etc. There is also the time we spend taking courses required to maintain our teaching certificate.

And don't forget that, unlike teachers, most professionals get a minimum of two weeks paid vacation per year. If teachers were paid for the hours we actually work I'd make a decent salary!

Lynn Cagney, Lutz

Medal was appropriate, giver wasn't

I enjoyed watching former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn receive their Medal of Freedom. Truly it was a medal well deserved. In the words of the citation, as your paper reported on Aug. 10, "they have lifted the dignity of people everywhere."

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are a close, functional family. I regret the medal was presented to them by a member of a dysfunctional family. Using plain common sense, the first family should have designated someone with the same high standards as the Carters to make the presentation.

Sidney M. Cohen, Spring Hill

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