There are many issues implicit in the Feb. 24 article, "Is self-defense law vigilante justice?" Two stand out. One concerns the extent to which criminals consider law and risk in planning crimes; the other concerns the practicality of one's response to threat.
Many arguments about "Stand Your Ground" laws assume that criminals are well aware of gun laws in a state and that they take these laws into consideration when planning a crime. In reality, more than five decades of studies of criminal decisionmaking show that most criminals, particularly those engaged in crimes of violence, are deficient in the ability to plan ahead or foresee the consequences of their actions. Criminals do have a greater awareness of gun laws than most citizens, but evidence shows that they do not use this information to avoid potentially armed citizens or to "shoot first."
Analysis of crime statistics, provided in detail online by the FBI, suggests that any aggressive response to threat - even shouting and screaming - is more likely to result in survival than fleeing or putting up with criminal abuse. Unlike criminals, most citizens do consider the longer-term consequences of their actions, and being forced to consider self-defense as only a final resort after retreat can lead to a greater risk of personal injury or death.
The popularity of "Stand Your Ground" laws across the country suggests that our society has drifted too far from personal responsibility for self-defense.
As a transplant from New Jersey to California, I confess to snickering all the way through the March 1 article, "Hello, 911? It's like totally pouring, I'm serious." The story was a delightful description of Angelenos' absolute inability to accept the concept that water may actually fall from the sky. The occasional falling helicopter or Piper Cub we Angelenos expect and accept - those are just chattable freeway hazards. But falling water is a betrayal of all nature's promises.
However, the article fails to appreciate the social courtesies that accompany rain in Los Angeles. No self-respecting L.A. resident would ever think to make a business call while it's raining, for example - it's, like, rude, dude, y'know?
Rainstorms are for huddling and kvetching and catching up. It's the only time the air doesn't reverberate with tinny tunes.
Which is yet another reason why those of us who understand the value of "real" weather are digging our roots ever deeper into the (temporarily) muddy soil of L.A.
Regarding your March 2 editorial, "Character on campus, and afterward": Looking back on a 33-year career, most of it in Fortune 500 marketing, ethical behavior, integrity, and trust are for me the cornerstones of the working world.
But it is also important to understand that some people have plenty of those qualities, but that they must learn to deal with those who may not have the same standards, without compromising their own integrity.
Maybe more of today's colleges and universities address these subjects. But they aren't, in my opinion, necessarily anchored only in spiritual depth or religion. One can possess or develop virtues without the moral underpinnings offered by religious beliefs. That may be good news these days when it seems the ACLU and other groups lurk to pounce on anything in the public domain that vaguely smells of religion.
Cape May Court House, N.J.
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.
Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.