- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2000

The best way to honor those awarded a Medal of Honor

Today is National Medal of Honor Day, a day established by Congress so that citizens of a grateful nation like ours could pay tribute to its Medal of Honor recipients.

Since today is not a federal holiday, I was wondering how best to honor our nation's Medal of Honor recipients on this solemn day.

I firmly believe the best tribute we could pay today to all the recipients of the Medal of Honor (living and dead) is to pledge to ourselves that if and when America's sons and daughters are ever called on to fight, they will do so as members of the world's best-equipped and trained Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

After all, this is the least I think citizens of a grateful nation should do.

Far too often this past century, policy-makers in both the executive and legislative branches of government have allowed the readiness and training woes of all five service branches to fall to dangerous lows. Several times, our military readiness crisis has become so severe that I felt it actually invited aggression by our adversaries.

I fervently hope that all those given the task by the Constitution to "provide for the common Defense" share my sentiments and commit themselves to reversing the present, dangerous decline in military readiness this nation has experienced the past seven years.

JIM DOLBOW

Arlington

Arm-twisting Smith & Wesson and gunning down the Constitution

Like many conservatives who do not have the good fortune to live in Oklahoma, I have followed the career of Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. with considerable interest. To many of us, he appeared to be a promising conservative leader: principled, articulate and courageous.

Hence, I was profoundly dismayed to read his remarks regarding the recent settlement between gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson and the Clinton administration ("Smith & Wesson agrees to install locks on triggers," March 18).

"It bears noting," Mr. Watts said, "that this decision, which I consider to be the socially responsible decision, was done without government mandate." Pardon? Yes, Mr. Watts, this agreement was indeed fashioned without "mandate" in the conventional sense, and that is the problem.

It is the result of neither legislation nor regulation. This settlement was achieved without debate in Congress or in any public forum. It was the product of legal extortion. Faced with the threat of punitive and costly civil suits launched upon utterly baseless grounds by the federal government, a private business engaged in a legal enterprise has submitted to the demands of government.

What does one call that? The flowering of democracy?

As a congressman and a conservative, I should think Mr. Watts would be deeply troubled by these tactics. The Clinton administration has figured out that it doesn't need to pass legislation to achieve legislative objectives.

In league with trial lawyers, the president is now able to govern by threat of legal action. He has used the courts to impose a de facto regulatory regime that the people, acting through their elected representatives, have otherwise rejected. He has made an end run around Congress and the Constitution.

Pardon me for not celebrating this development with Mr. Watts. I doubt that the good people of Oklahoma sent him to Washington to offer inane rationalizations for the dismantling of constitutional government.

DAVID T. BOND

Washington

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the cities of Atlanta, Detroit and Miami have decided to make their law enforcement agencies give preference to Smith & Wesson. This preference also would apply to "any gun makers that adopt a new code of responsible conduct" ("HUD, 3 cities to favor Smith & Wesson in buying guns," March 19).

The agreement calls for the establishment of an oversight commission made up of local, state and federal officials that would supervise the gun manufacturer. I wonder just how dumbed down we have become if we allow this administration to continue to subvert the Constitution, the rule of law and the judicial process.

Laws and regulations will not prevent criminals from possessing guns. Criminals will not use trigger locks. Criminals do not get their guns from legitimate outlets. Prosecuting illegal uses of handguns, including negligence by adults who let children handle and possess guns without supervision, is the only thing that will work.

The deal the Clinton administration has made with Smith & Wesson is illegal because it is bribery, extortion and graft. The issue of an oversight commission is a flagrant and unwholesome misuse of power and is a threat to our rights and foreign to our Constitution.

In days of yore, the people would have petitioned for redress and a prince, whose character mirrors that of the president's, would be defined as a tyrant and unfit to be the leader of a free people.

While the president is not a prince, we the people should exercise our right of redress for the crime of bribery, extortion and graft.

JULIA F. THOMPSON

Stevensville, Md.

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The capitulation of Smith & Wesson to the Clinton administration's unconstitutional extortion is setting a bad precedent, though understandable from Smith & Wesson's view.

By surrendering its right to legitimate commerce and advertising, Smith & Wesson has removed itself from the weight of these improper lawsuits and coercion by the government. The same tactic was used against Big Tobacco, and it knuckled under, and Big Tobacco has far deeper pockets than all the firearms manufacturers combined.

As harsh as National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's words were on President Clinton, it looks like he nailed it. Why else would the administration scream the way it has?

It's a sad commentary on these times when the government can so recklessly and unconstitutionally force businesses into bending to its will.

How many times has the Clinton-Gore administration bypassed the will of Congress, the rule of law and common sense for purely politically motivated purposes?

It is more important than ever for Americans to vote this year, to clean Washington of the stain of the current administration.

What industries will be coerced next, simply because they are politically incorrect, making them convenient whipping boys?

BRUCE BLUM

Frederick, Md.

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Recently, gun maker Smith & Wesson agreed to include safety locks on all handguns sold and made other concessions in exchange for withdrawal of lawsuits by local, state and federal governments.

One of the issues the Clinton administration and Smith & Wesson agreed to was the creation of an outside oversight commission. The issue of an oversight commission was omitted in the original news reports, and it was not until gun maker Glock Inc. rejected the gun control agreement that this deal-breaking issue was disclosed to the public. Glock has rejected the government agreement and refuses to be bribed and extorted to avoid lawsuits.

Hiding the issue of the oversight commission reveals the extent our government will go to mislead the country if any of us lets down our guard to prevent the assault and subversion of the Constitution.

Revelation of the deal presented to Glock is a heads-up that the government is attempting to establish a powerful regulatory agency for the control of guns.

If such an oversight commission is established, instead of Americans having an "Indian in the Cupboard," we will have federal, state and local officials in our closets.

MILDRED M. FISCHER

Fredericksburg, Va.

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I completely agree with your editorial on the "voluntary" settlement between Smith & Wesson and the government ("Hands up, Smith & Wesson," March 20). The Second Amendment is traveling on a dead-end road toward emasculation by litigation rather than by legislation.

One must wonder the fate of other constitutional protections if the government improperly uses its resources to fund litigation to override legislative policy.

Although I do not own a gun, the protection of another person's liberty is important to me. Otherwise, one of my treasured freedoms may be attacked and no one would assist in its defense.

ROBERT L. BUZZENDORE JR.

Columbia, Pa.

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