Regarding your Sept. 14 editorial, "What, Assault Rifles Are Back?": The assault weapons ban outlawed rifles virtually identical to firearms it left alone. These guns are so rarely used in crimes they hardly merit statistical recognition.
Particularly galling, however, is the misleading and continued reference in the Monitor to "Uzis" now being available for purchase. The term Uzi is synonymous in the public mind with fully automatic machine guns, which are illegal to purchase or possess. While the Uzi company does make a semiautomatic rifle (which requires someone to pull the trigger each time a shot is fired) that was covered by the ban, using the brand name "Uzi" is misleading and inaccurate.
Also disturbing is the Monitor's suggestion that although the law didn't accomplish what was intended, it was a good "example" that demonstrates guns could be outlawed. The purpose of law is to accomplish something concrete, not to make examples.
If the Monitor truly wishes to see safer streets and homes, it will push for tougher sentencing of criminals who use firearms, rather than laud the confiscation or outlawing of guns by law-abiding citizens, many of whom own semiautomatic rifles and shotguns the Monitor would like to see banned.
Your courageous editorial, speaking clearly and sanely on the sad lapse of the assault weapons ban, shows that the Monitor neither bows to the clout of the NRA nor shares its fears. You have chosen to speak for our nation's police chiefs and the majority of the American people. One financially powerful myopic lobby should not be allowed to shoot our entire country in the foot.
Karen S. James
Santa Fe, N.M.
Regarding the Sept. 10 article "Assault-rifle ban fades away": Gun shops have continued selling these guns, minus a few features that have nothing to do with crime or lethality. And they also have continued to sell older guns that do have these features. The end of the "ban" will only enable the selling of new guns including these extra features.
In response to the Sept. 9 article, "On the range, gas trumps wildlife," energy security never trumps wilderness protection. The law clearly forbids oil and gas leasing in designated wilderness areas and wilderness study areas. The areas mentioned in the article don't fall under either designation.
Nonetheless, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) deferred 190,000 acres from the Utah lease sale, including 30 parcels with wilderness values. BLM carefully evaluates each parcel of land proposed for energy development, deferring some altogether and imposing restrictions (to protect wildlife, for example) on others.
The law requires BLM to hold oil and gas lease sales every quarter when companies show interest and the area's land-use plan allows for leasing. With high energy prices, there is plenty of interest. The Bush administration is not "pushing" leasing, as the article suggests.
In the past three years, 24 percent fewer leases have been issued than in the last three years of the previous administration. Nationwide, 41 million acres are under lease, not 229 million, an irrelevant number that represents cumulative acres leased over time. Leases expire. For example, in Utah, 4 million acres are currently leased. In 1985, it was 16 million.
We can produce energy and protect wilderness. Our actions corroborate this.
Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Department of the Interior
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