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  1. Letters to the Editor

Saturday's letters: Here are ways to make a home with a gun safer

Published May 24

I heartily thank the Times' spotlight on this neglected peril. Guns and ammunition should always be stored separately. Though home defense is a greatly exaggerated rationale for firearms, and shotguns would serve this purpose far better, the concerns of the fretful can be assuaged with a quickly accessible biometric safe for ammunition. Except when very young children are in the household, I believe that the firearms themselves should be secured somewhat less stringently for psychological reasons.

Parents should avoid creating a "forbidden fruit" situation but should instead start early familiarizing their kids with safe handling. Parents should also ensure that their kids learn that defense is a last resort, and extremely rare application, as we do not want to pass on the parental paranoia which afflicts us, nor instill fear in the kids' one safe place. If you can't give your kids a better explanation than self-defense, you probably do not need a gun in the house at all. Societally, I hope that we can move past gun ban proposals toward licensing gun owners. Part of that licensing would include mandatory insurance (per automobiles). The insurance carriers would require and likely incentivize safe storage. While licensing and insurance would provide no absolute surety, of course, licensing owners would shift the ideation from right to privilege, introduce new tort or criminal remedies for unsafe design and negligence, couple background checks with all firearms, and not just new purchases, and dissuade home armories (disabled guns kept for collection purposes would have far smaller premiums as liability coverage would not pertain and rates would vary with actuarial risk so a bird gun would cost less to insure than an assault rifle). Auto insurance does more than cover accidents; it reduces their frequency, too.

Pat Byrne, Largo

Punching back against Parkinson's | Column, May 18

In praise of a 'Parky'

A great column by Doug Clifton, spot on,and then some! As a fellow "Parky" it took me six years to learn what he revealed in three minutes. I was diagnosed in 2013, about 20 years too late. I went through five doctors before finding one who dealt with Parkinson's. They were all fine doctors for the most part; they just didn't deal with the peculiar symptoms of the ailment. It takes a specialist to recognize the subtle clues. There are a whole lot of help programs available once a patient is aware of what they have. He mentions Rock Steady Boxing as an exercise, and I agree 100 percent. And it is readily available in this area. It did not work out well for me because I started at the tender age of 86. Not all things are Parkinson's; there are still little things like old age that muddy the waters. But even though I was only in the program for six months, it was beneficial by improving muscle tone and morale — great people! I think the two most important factors for anyone managing the adventure of Parkinson's are their caregiver and their doctor. Combine that with an open mind and positive attitude and it's a wonderful life.

Rees Noren, Madeira Beach

Teaching is killing me, so I'm quitting | Column, May 18

No teach-able moments

Amen! Bianca Goolsby has graphically described the impossible conditions in which she is expected to teach. The violence, property destruction, sex, drugs and dangers she faces daily have caused her to become "short-tempered, authoritative, controlling and hardened." She doesn't even mention all the paperwork, documenting, interruptions and planning every teacher is expected to accomplish with a lack of resources and time. Now add teachers with guns to this mix. The legislators are clueless!

Nancy Martin, Zephyrhills

Not ready for real world

I also left teaching for many of the same reasons mentioned by the author. I was in a Title I school in Pinellas County. I had several defiant students whom the principal did not want to discipline. I taught high school and was unable to contact many of the parents because phones were disconnected. I had students cursing at me. We teachers had no support from the administration, whose primary job was to see that students graduated so the principals looked good. It did not matter that many students could not write a sentence or perform basic math.

I was a volunteer tutor at a local community college after I left teaching. I was shocked at the number of students who could still not write a sentence or do simple math problems. These students got into college because they had a high school diploma. They were in extreme need of remedial help. On the other hand, these students were trying very hard to succeed and I was happy to help them, yet I felt that they were mistreated by our education system because they were led to believe that they were ready for college.

Few principals are willing to risk their careers by holding back under-performing students. I don't know what the solution is, but in Title I schools we need to realize that it takes a village to raise a child. I had parents or guardians who were working two jobs to support their families. Some of them could not come to conferences or did not have enough time to make sure their student was performing to expectations. They were good people and they falsely assumed that the schools are doing a good job of preparing their children.

Dave Hinz, Clearwater

Faculty has to pull together

Teacher Bianca Goolsby's resignation struck a nerve. I was a Chicago teacher for 35 years in a community with similar problems. I am not surprised by teacher attitudes toward non-white kids. I have never been too surprised by the attitude of many teachers. Plus, it is a great thing to have a helpful administrator who knows what is needed to improve school conditions. It is rare. A strong faculty, unburdened with busy work and useless meetings, and full of love, caring and personality can make a difference. I know this and how to do this because I watched it happen with reasonable success in the school where I taught.

Robert Clifford, Tarpon Springs

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