Regarding the article ''Militia Forum Draws Army of Curious,'' May 11: One important aspect raised by these militias is how we view them in relation to ourselves and to society. I don't believe their fears, fixation on guns, and revulsion of government are simply isolated symptoms of a single group. Rather, I see them partly as a product of the competitive, socially Darwinistic culture that we have created.
As long as genuine caring and respect for life are secondary values, militia-type mentality and violence are predictable.
Charles Bennett Santa Barbara, Calif.
The outrage in Oklahoma, and the madness of the perpetrators and of their cohorts, is evidence that the outmoded intent of the Second Amendment has resulted in abuse and insanity. When this amendment was instituted by our Founding Fathers, bearing arms and forming a citizen militia were appropriate activities, but they certainly didn't envision the high technologies in arms, transportation, and communication that exist today.
When respect for and obedience to a country's laws are lacking, only chaos, anarchy, and tragedy can occur. What peaceful and sane justification can there be for acquiring automatic assault weapons? Where will this country's growing obsession with violence end?'' ''Stop the Madness'' is now an antidrug slogan. It is equally applicable to the arms-possession mania that is engulfing the country.
Sara L. Cascio Columbia, S.C.
The gun-control debate has unleashed more passion than rational discussion. Surprisingly, despite the unfailing references to the Second Amendment by those who feel threatened by any possible abridgment of ''Second Amendment rights,'' not once have I found (in my fairly wide reading of local and national news sources) the Second Amendment quoted in its entirety: ''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 should be obvious that the authors of this simple statement intended the militia to be under the orders of government, not simply a self-selected group or groups pursuing their own petty interests.
Edward H. Germann Huntsville, Ala.
The Oklahoma City tragedy brought a cloud of sadness all over America. But as the American Muslims were expressing their sympathy for the bombing victims through prayer, their sadness was deepened because, in a way, they became the victims of a tragedy. The media's readiness to blame American Muslims unleashed a frenzy of hate and threats against them.
Islam preaches universal brotherhood. But, today, the media's stereotyping has made Islam the most misrepresented religion in the United States. The media should stop stereotyping Muslims and Islam, start educating people about true Islam, and stop incriminating Muslims for short-term political gains.
Ahmed S. Khan Lombard, Ill.
With the bombing in Oklahoma City, the US government is getting tough on terrorism. But the real problem is that the US mishandles these situations in the first place.
Within our society, militias are upset at decisions made by the US government. At the Waco compound, people were killed by the government simply because they owned firearms. They had harmed no one and owning firearms is a constitutional right.
The government should have made a better attempt to resolve the problems in Waco peacefully.
If our leaders had higher character, they might not commit the crimes in the first place, and the ''terrorism'' problem would completely go away.
Stephen Franklin White Lynnwood, Wash.
Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.