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Reason and the gun issue

Curtis J. Sitomer's column ``A sensible shot against guns,'' Dec. 1, falls far wide of accuracy, and cries out for a rebuttal. The fallacy he commits is not uncommon - calling for a ``reasonable approach'' to gun control. The problem is that no such ``reasonable approach'' exists. Seeking to take away handguns, or any other kind of gun, from law-abiding citizens will do nothing to stop murder and other crimes. Those who will commit those crimes will use other means, or obtain their guns illegally. Even limiting the ban to the so-called ``Saturday Night Specials'' does no more than to remove a means of personal defense from the poorest members of society - those who need it most because they are least safe and least able to depend on overloaded, overworked police forces.

If the basic right to defend oneself and family through the possession of a firearm is taken away, how long until the other basic rights are gone? Will the voters next be able to vote away other rights - perhaps those that guarantee religious freedom?

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I must stand by an often quoted but little followed declaration, ``Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.'' We must be extreme in demanding that our basic rights be respected - all of them, all the way, and all the time. T.W. Pleasant, Sun City, Calif.

Maryland voters have made anything but ``a sensible shot against guns,'' as stated in this column. The Maryland law gives the gun panel unquestioned authority to ban any firearm that it may arbitrarily dislike, for any reason whatsoever. The armed criminal does not carry a ``Saturday Night Special,'' but the best Smith & Wesson that he can buy. This is borne out by the study by Prof. James Wright, a sociologist, in his definitive work, ``A Survey of Incarcerated Felons.'' The only people affected by a ban on ``Saturday Night Specials'' are people who need a gun for self-defense but cannot afford anything better.

When retired Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell points out that other Western democracies have lower murder rates than the United States because they have strict gun control laws, he is guilty of post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning. In Britain, for example, there are proportionately fewer stabbings, fewer bludgeonings, fewer stranglings, than in the US. On the other hand, in Switzerland, where every man has a full automatic weapon in his house, there are also fewer murders of all types than in the US. The answer to these situations may be found in the no-nonsense legal systems of these countries, which have a much higher proportion of arrests and convictions than the US does.

Indeed, thoughtful reasoning is always a good idea! Let's practice it for a change! Lester Keene, Fredericksburg, Texas

A gun does not have to be diamond-studded and gold-plated to be an effective weapon. However, the ``Saturday Night Special'' as a ``cheap'' weapon implies that class is a determinant of whether one will be allowed to buy a weapon. Since only rich people can invest in needlessly expensive weapons, they would not be inconvenienced by the panel's arbitrary decisions. Working middle-class persons who live and work in often dangerous circumstances are targeted by the Saturday Night Special canard.

Maryland is imposing restrictions which already exist to a large degree in New York State.

Celebrities, millionaires, politicians, and other elite types can and do own handguns, while someone like Bernhard Goetz, who is forced to live in the asphalt jungle, is still being hounded by state authorities who appear more concerned with the criminal's rights than those of the victim. V. Racenis, Kenmore, N.Y.

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Stereotypical toys Regarding the article ``Toy stores yearn for a megahit, while parents go for basics,'' Dec. 5: I responded with concern to the stereotypes reinforced by the marketing of boys' and girls' toys.

From the article we learn that Nintendo, the best-selling toy, depicts male adventurers who rescue passive princesses; girls receive makeup and hairstyle toys from Mattel, while boys race cars and bust ghosts.

Parents and other adults may want to think twice before buying the ``megahit'' toys that subtly encourage girls to become Barbie and boys to emulate G.I. Joe. Paula V. Smith, Grinnell, Iowa

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