- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2000

Readers take shots at 'smart' guns

I wanted to thank you for the Feb. 29 editorial " 'Smart' guns, dumb laws," regarding so-called smart-gun technology. I manage a team of software technicians that exists because of the bugs human programmers write. There are and always will be flaws, albeit unintentional, in software or hardware. I for one do not want to depend on a chip to defend my family.

One issue I have to mention is the way in which the general media report gun-related violence. "A Beretta 9mm killed (fill in the blank)." How come we don't see "A Ford Mustang killed (fill in the blank)"? A gun is no different from any other inanimate object. I tell my youngsters who are beginning to drive that when they get behind the wheel of a car it is as if I gave them a loaded .357 Magnum and sent them out into the street. A car is as lethal as any gun I dare say more so, considering the statistics on mortality of young people.

Blaming an industry for the improper use of its product is absurd. First tobacco (corruption not withstanding) and now gun manufacturers. When are we going to hold people accountable for their actions?

Thanks again for your editorial. It was a refreshing bit of truth.

PETE FREIMAYER

Bowie

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As a police firearms instructor of 14 years, I can tell you that I know of no firearms instructor who is in favor of "smart" guns, for all the reasons mentioned in your editorial.

The last thing a citizen, much less a police officer, needs is worrying if the smart-gun technology will allow the weapon to fire, when needed, in a split second (some systems take more than one second to allow firing) or worrying whether the batteries are still good. No one ever subjects these prototypes to the rigors of police work for testing: being dropped, bumped, subjected to weather extremes or neglected (for which police officers are famous). But no one, especially manufacturers such as Colt, ever asked us.

SCOTT WAGNER

Police academy commander

Columbus State Community College

Columbus, Ohio

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I am a retired mechanical design engineer and a lifetime shooter. I would not under any circumstances carry or use a "smart" gun. You have, in your editorial, brought forth one of the problems with a safety mechanism. It is not reliable; therefore, it is dangerous. When machines are operator-controlled, the best design is the simplest design. Teach the operator the few procedures that are safe, then practice, practice, practice.

The "anti-gun" crowd does not believe in this simple procedure; it is too practical. The National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle youth program is practical. High school and college shooting teams are practical. Knowledge is safety. What is the logic of such groups as Handgun Control Inc. in trying to avoid practical solutions? Its goal is to ban all guns. If that is the case, the 18th Amendment (prohibition of liquor, with a revision) could be re-enacted.

BRYANT HOPKINS

Arlington

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I agree with you that "smart" guns are a dumb idea. What the advocates of this technology fail to realize is that if guns were truly personalized, everyone in the household would need his or her own weapon for self-defense. Instead of owning a single weapon available to everyone who needed it, each house would become an arsenal.

Another point overlooked is that transponder technology is no guarantee of safety. If criminals can snatch your cell-phone and credit-card numbers, how long would it be before they equipped themselves with "black boxes" that scanned for your weapon's identifying code and sent it back to the gun. While your weapon refused to fire on the false signal, your assailant, armed with a plain old "dumb" weapon, would be free to fire on you with impunity.

STEVE TOTH

Denville, N.J.

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Congratulations on your " 'Smart' guns, dumb law" editorial. To this responsible gun owner, it is all too obvious that this issue is about governmental intrusion in our lives. Established governments always find it in their best interests to place a stranglehold on gun ownership. Our current system is still the best available. However, it is the obligation of the citizenry to be the guardians of democracy. Gun ownership fuels the power behind our ability to be guardians. Let's not delude ourselves; crime and safety issues are not what motivates gun control fanatics.

JASON POOLE

Bryan, Texas

Most favor president's forest protection plan

The Feb. 22 Washington Times article "Report: Clinton aides, environmentalists ally," concerning the Clinton administration's proposal to protect wild, undeveloped national forests, failed to mention that since proposing its roadless policy in October, the Forest Service has hosted almost 200 open meetings across the country and has elicited a half-million public comments more than have been generated by any other environmental proposal. The vast majority of these comments favor the president's wild-forest protection plan.

Indeed, poll after poll confirms that the public supports President Clinton's proposal to protect our nation's last wild forests. A recent survey by Republican pollster American Viewpoint found that more than three-quarters of Americans support permanently protecting roadless areas in national forests. That belief is shared by 62 percent of Republicans and two-thirds of Westerners.

Opponents of the wild-forest protection proposal are only attempting to steal a responsible legacy from future generations.

KEN RAIT

Director

Heritage Forests Campaign

Portland, Ore.

Award to Togolese president disturbs Amnesty International

The news that Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema received the annual Justice and Peace Award from the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Justice and Peace, is, to say the least, disturbing ("Mission to Togo," Embassy Row, Feb. 23). Under his 33-year dictatorship, the president has steadfastly eroded not advanced human rights.

In May 1999, Amnesty International published a report detailing how Mr. Eyadema's government executed hundreds of people in an effort to intimidate the public into supporting his re-election. It also described the extent of arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill treatment, deaths in custody and harsh detention conditions. The Amnesty International report, the latest in a series published on Togo since 1980, emphasized that extrajudicial executions and "disappearances" in Togo were nothing new.

Mr. Eyadema did not initiate any investigation, nor was anyone ever held accountable for the human rights violations. Instead, the Togolese government intensified its crackdown on human rights activists and critics, beating and harassing Amnesty International members from Togo and Nigeria. It also filed a lawsuit against Amnesty International's Secretary- General Pierre Sane for "a possible indictment for contempt, incitement to revolt, dissemination of false news and conspiracy against the external security of the State" (which it has since suspended).

And the abuses have not stopped. As recently as December, five student leaders and other members of teachers' unions were arbitrarily arrested and beaten before being released. The government also introduced a bill in January leveling stiffer penalties for journalists, including prison terms for defamation.

Mr. Eyadema's role in facilitating the flawed Sierra Leone peace agreement may have been a positive action, but giving him this human rights award is an insult to Eleanor Roosevelt, her vision and her activism.

ADOTEI AKWEI

Africa advocacy director

Amnesty International USA

New York

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