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Letters

By Stephanie RicoRichard L. Allman, and Robert S. Jellison / October 17, 1997



Many Triggers to Blame for Violent Crime

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The opinion-page article, "Murder: The Weapon Isn't the Question," (Oct. 10) stunned me with its insensitivity.

First, it does not acknowledge the absurdly easy access that most people have to weapons. Despite passage of the Brady law, gun dealers and gun owners are still not held to the same level of accountability as car owners, for example. This lack of accountability floods the market with guns, both illegally obtained and those bought legally and then sold illegally or stolen. Gun control alone clearly cannot solve the problem, but to dismiss it completely is irresponsible.

Second, the author treats murderers as a species apart in a coldly clinical way. She cites studies of juvenile murderers, but never mentions the political, societal, and familial issues that surround the "long list of prior felonies" of these murderers. She says "murderers typically have mental problems that make them very different from the rest of us," as though "those people" grow up in a vacuum unaffected by their surroundings and the society in which they live.

Certainly we cannot wait until this society provides a nurturing environment for its children to address the very real issues that the author raises. But neither can we focus merely on a single component of this complex problem, whether it be mental instability, gun control, or the lack of care the US shows its millions of children living in poverty.

Stephanie Rico

Imperial Beach, Calif.

Bring back grass-roots politics

Regarding "Influence Buying and Free Speech (Oct. 2): I must admit to having indulged in a fantasy.

What if there were no spin doctors, speech writers, or motivational research consultants? What if there were no expensive television ads? What if there were no money-grubbing party machines? What if we had the opportunity to hear each candidate stand up and express his or her own ideas? What if the electorate were free to make intelligent, thoughtful choices without the destructive distractions of demagoguery and mudslinging? What if, instead of having a bunch of lawyers in Congress design rules to protect us from corrupt politicians, we simply voted them out if they were corrupt?

It would be pretty amateurish, wouldn't it? But there are some of us who would welcome such a direct, simple approach.

I don't know about other people, but I am tired of newspeople speculating on what color telephone Al Gore used. Especially when the law he is supposed to have broken was meant to protect civil servants from political solicitation by their supervisors.

To imply that the White House is some sort of ideological sepulchre that is defiled by having politics go on within it is to be out of touch with reality.

The current fuss about "access" and how it is obtained (with money) is hardly unique to politics. It is really access, not free speech, that's at issue. Like it or not, we have built a monster that runs on money. Unless we care enough to better the system fundamentally, forget about regulating it.

The high-tech multimedia "communications management" systems that political candidates now rely on for media access (and for buffering themselves from the real-world electorate) could beneficially be replaced by some old-fashioned plain-speaking. And it would be a lot less expensive!

Richard L. Allman

La Crescenta, Calif.

Different ways to keep score

It is tiresome to continually see comparisons between the US and other countries that do not take population into account.

The "Etceteras" column on the News in Brief page (Oct. 9) included the list "US Holds Wide Lead In Winning Nobel Prizes." Readers are led to believe our institutions excel at producing Nobel laureates. Yet, on a per capita basis, we are in the middle of the pack. Sweden is well out in front with 3.2 Nobel laureates per million people, followed by Switzerland (2.4), UK (1.6), Germany (0.9), Netherlands (0.9), US (0.8), France (0.8), Italy (0.2), and the former Soviet Union (0.1). If one wants to produce Nobel laureates, look to institutions in Sweden.

Robert S. Jellison

Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

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