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Keep guns out of criminal hands in the first place

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John R. Lott Jr.'s advocacy of increasing gun ownership ("One case for guns" Aug. 21) is disturbing. Both he and Senate majority leader Trent Lott continue to argue that the more guns we're carrying around, the less crime there will be. Can people in such positions be serious about returning the US to a "Wild West" mentality?

I have no idea where the numbers cited came from, but before we begin stocking up with more firearms, I would like to hear a response to the question: "How many crimes would not have been committed if the perpetrators had not had guns?" Mr. Lott should consider that the criminals in his anecdotes probably would not have done what they did if their access to weapons had been blocked, or at least made more difficult, in the first place. The whole point of "gun control" legislation is to make it more difficult for criminals to own firearms. As long as the "gun in every pocket" advocates have their way, we will never have the chance to attack the problem at its roots.

Steven K. Vernon Havertown, Penn.

Puppies behind bars

Thank you for running the Aug. 16 article "New leash on life" about inmates training Seeing Eye dogs. The revelation that many inmates are anxious and willing to "give something back to society" needs to be widespread. Prison officials should be giving inmates an avenue, but most of them are more interested in profits and punishment. Corruption is rampant, and many inmates are literally starving for education.

I run an Inmate Literacy Program, and have found that 30 percent of the prison population cannot read or write. Often those illiterates have no way to learn, unless another inmate chooses to teach them. With the billions we spend on prisons, this is astounding. Money should be spent "correcting" instead of punishing. Is it any wonder that the return rate is so high?

Rev. Franci Prowse Anza, Calif.

Measuring change for the better

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