- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2000

No need to infringe on Constitution to get safe guns

A headline in The Washington Times on Oct. 9 makes a point that gun control advocates find difficult to understand. The headline reads: "Police recall ineffective gun locks."
Those who defend Second Amendment rights are accused of opposing safe guns, which include smart guns and guns with safety devices such as trigger locks. But no one I know opposes such improvements. What we oppose are laws that attempt to legislate something that does not exist. When safety devices are developed and proven, no legislation will be needed: The first manufacturer to include them will immediately have a marked advantage. There is a widespread recognition of the need for such devices.
It is all too common in our society for groups that happen to have opposing views on some issues to concentrate on their differences rather than on their points of agreement. It is frequently true that when we stop to think about it, we are far more similar to our adversaries than we are different. Therefore, we should try to have more discussions that unite, not divide.
This is especially true in the gun control debate. There is no argument over whether safe guns are desirable. The only difference of opinion is over how we get there. Some believe that we can legislate these developments. Clearly, entrepreneurs create these improvements, not someone in a legislative body. These improvements will be in the market as soon as they are developed and demonstrated to be effective.
The goals of these two sides in this debate are really the same: Criminals and irresponsible people should not own guns, guns should not be available to children, and devices that make guns safer should be adopted. We differ only in how we reach these goals. I believe that we can achieve these things without infringing on our Second Amendment rights. And I do not believe that legislation speeds up the technical developments. Indeed, legislation could be counterproductive if it forced unproved technology on the market, giving a false sense of security.
As for the aforementioned article in The Washington Times, the gun locks were recalled because when the gun bounced against an object, the lock sprung open. As the spokesman for the Knoxville police noted, "My biggest concern was that a child would be hurt because a parent had a false sense of security with this device."
I would hope that, in the future, both sides in this debate would concentrate on those points on which we agree rather than on our differences.
If we work together, everyone will be better off.
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington

Bill Clinton is the most self-absorbed president in history

Though I'm disinclined to use psychobabble to demythologize politics, Tony Blankley's perceptive piece ("The me-presidency," Commentary, Oct. 11) has persuaded me that psychological insights are essential to understanding President Clinton.
Who can doubt that Mr. Clinton has been the most self-absorbed president in American history? He has attempted to mask his arrogance by biting his lower lip and "feeling our pain." Further, with more than a touch of denial and paranoia, he blames his failures not on himself, but on Newt Gingrich, the Republican Congress and his unrelenting enemies.
ERNEST W. LEFEVER
Senior Fellow
Ethics and Public Policy Center
Chevy Chase

Time to tax fossil fuels to escape dependence on oil

Your editorial, "Issues: the energy crisis" (Oct. 12), stated that environmentalists understate the amount of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to reduce the pressure to develop this oil. Yet you use the reverse tactic in that very article.
You claim there are 16 billion barrels of oil in ANWR. The 16 billion-barrel estimate comes from the U.S. Geological Survey. It assigns a 5 percent probability to recovering that much oil from the Arctic reserve. There is also a 5 percent probability that we would only get 5.7 billion barrels of oil. The agency estimates a 50 percent probability to recovery of 10 billion barrels from the Arctic.
The maximum production from this most probable reserve estimate is 1.35 million barrels per day, which would be reached about 25 years after production begins. After this peak, the production would drop each year, eventually to zero.
In contrast, the Department of Energy estimates that we could save 1.8 million barrels of gasoline per day by improving gas mileage through available technology. In 25 years, our technology will likely be improved, resulting in even greater energy savings.
Rather than trying to achieve this solely through regulation, we should shift our tax base off of income, payroll and capital gains and onto fossil fuel use. This would harness the market mechanism to move us beyond the oil economy.
Oil is finite, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has most of what's left. Its time to face facts and begin to overcome our oil dependency.
CARL HENN
Rockville

Hate-crimes law allows society to protect targeted community

What is it about hate crimes legislation that Nat Hentoff really dislikes? ("The crime of hate," Op-Ed, Oct. 9)
It can't be simply the concept of equal protection. After all, that includes the guarantee of a fair and speedy trial, access to competent legal council, protection against unwarranted search and seizure, and so forth. Can it be that he believes that discrimination no longer exists in America that every person has fair and equal access to opportunities for the pursuit of life, liberty and property?
Or is it that he believes that no group within our society is singled out for violence disproportionate to their population? Or maybe he believes it's unfair that some groups are afforded protection that others wish they had.
According to crime statistics and the research of social scientists, hate crimes are unusually brutal crimes against persons. These attacks much more often involve multiple offenders and they usually present in their actions the very evidence necessary to declare them motivated by hate. The attackers usually make their motivation clear to the victim and to any witnesses.
It is also clear from studying the perpetrators of these offenses, as well as with their supporters, that they intend to send a message to the community to which the victim belongs. Their rage is directed at a randomly selected representative of a group. Any member of that group could have been the victim, another hallmark of hate-motivated crimes. And it's the randomness of the act that is the motivation behind enhancing the punishment for the crime.
There are some among us who believe it is society's responsibility to let a targeted community know that the attitudes and motives of those who would seek to destroy them are not shared by all, and that society will take the collective responsibility to protect them. Hate crime legislation is about that collective responsibility.
Maybe Mr. Hentoff doesn't think it's important to take responsibility for others in our society. That's too bad. Recently, we Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, a time when we honor that collective responsibility for one another and all of society in our prayers.
ROBERT HARRIS
Lancaster, Calif.

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