- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

Walking the walk on gun laws

In a Monday’s Commentary column “Talking sense on gun laws,” Dan Thomasson cites faulty analysis by a left-leaning interest group as proof that the Department of Justice must “vastly” improve its prosecution of federal-gun-law offenders. As the real statistics reflect, the department already has achieved that goal.

President Bush’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative is a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crime in America. The Bush administration has devoted more than $1 billion in its first four years to preventing gun crime, coupling vigorous enforcement of gun laws by federal, state and local prosecutors with aggressive public outreach campaigns, prevention and deterrence efforts, training programs and research.

Project Safe Neighborhoods holds those who commit gun crimes accountable for their actions and deters would-be gun criminals by spreading the message “Gun crime means hard time.” The past three years have established that criminals who violate our nation’s gun laws face a determined adversary in this administration.

Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, the Justice Department has prosecuted a record number of gun-crime cases. Since fiscal year 2000, the number of federal gun-crime prosecutions has increased by 68 percent and stands at the highest level since the department has kept statistics. Last fiscal year, federal prosecutors filed more than 10,500 federal firearms cases against more than 13,000 people. Defendants in those cases are being sentenced to significant prison time: Approximately 72 percent of the offenders were sentenced to more than three years in prison for convictions on firearms charges or other offenses, and 93 percent of those offenders faced some time in prison.

The commentary also neglected the fact that the vast majority of gun-crime prosecutions are most appropriately brought by state or local prosecutors, which is why Project Safe Neighborhoods has supported these local prosecutions by funding more than 540 local gun-prosecutor positions across the country and by providing training to more than 11,000 people in communities across the nation.

The Department of Justice remains committed to preventing and deterring gun crime and improving the safety of Americans. We have vastly increased our prosecution of gun-crime offenders, and the violent-crime rate is at a 30-year low. These results reflect Mr. Bush’s dedication to Project Safe Neighborhoods and the priority the Justice Department has given fighting gun crime.

MARK CORALLO

Director of public affairs

Department of Justice

Washington

Prewar reality vs. postwar tragedy

“A bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work.”

I couldn’t help but think of this bumper sticker as I heard the news that 143 Iraqis had died in al Qaeda-inspired synchronized bombings outside mosques in central Iraq (“Blasts kill 143 pilgrims in Iraq,” Wednesday, Page 1).

For most countries, that’s a bad day for casualties. However, compared to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, 143 deaths actually would classify as a good day.

According to the United Nations, 1.5 million Iraqis (mostly children) died from 1991 to 2003 because of starvation and easily preventable diseases from economic sanctions imposed on the conscience-less, splendor-living Saddam.

Breaking it down, that comes to 125,000 preventable deaths per year. Divide that by 365 days, and it averages 343 daily Saddam-related deaths, or to put it more precisely, 200 more than the worst day of the postwar era.

In other words, despite the carnage of this well-organized act of terrorism — to paraphrase the fishing slogan — the worst postwar day is still far better than the “business as usual” prewar days.

To all the pessimistic hand-wringers out there who are wailing that our mission in Iraq is “a miserable failure,” I argue that every day 343 Iraqis are not dying needlessly is a success.

The way I see it, this 343 figure, which tragically is the combined number of New York City firemen and policemen killed at the World Trade Center, is the standard for daily success in Iraq. Since the fall of Saddam, the Iraqis have had a string of more than 300 days and counting, which equates to a spectacular humanitarian success story.

EUGENE R. DUNN

Medford, N.Y.

Diverse signal gives off p.c. static

Wednesday’s Op-Ed column by Sen. John McCain and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell(“Clearsignal,static response”) should doom the bill it endorses.

The Telecommunications Ownership Diversification Act is craftily drafted to avoid any outright requirement of preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex. Thus, it speaks only of “economically and socially disadvantaged businesses,” which are nowhere defined and membership in which is left to the determination of Secretary of the Treasury John Snow. The secretary would not be required to take race, ethnicity or sex into account; indeed, it clearly would be illegal for him to inject such presumptively unconstitutional considerations when the underlying statute provides him no clear authority to do so.

With the column, however, the thin veil has been lifted because it makes clear that what the drafters of the bill are after is most-favored treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity and sex. Mr. McCain and Mr. Powell are convinced that a person’s skin color, for instance, tells us all we need to know about the “public affairs programming” someone favors, whether he or she is “more likely to broadcast in languages other than English” and what color employees he or she will hire.

This stereotyping is nonsense, of course, and leads inexorably to dummy-ownership corruption. It has, moreover, been rejected as unconstitutional by the courts — for instance, in 1998 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod vs. FCC. Congress should reject it, too, now that the motives behind the bill have been so clearly revealed.

ROGER CLEGG

General counsel

Center for Equal Opportunity

Sterling, Va.

Shady deals for mercenary reasons

ArnauddeBorchgrave’s Wednesday Commentary column in The Washington Times, “What did Musharraf know?” claimed that the pardoning of Abdul Qadeer Khan in his shady nuclear deals with Libya and Iran was motivated by a scheme to protect top military brass supposedly complicit in nuclear proliferation on the black market.

In his argument, Mr. de Borchgrave did not provide incontrovertible proof to substantiate his charge, instead relying on innuendo. More important, he ignored President Pervez Musharraf’s explanation that it was a rogue operation perpetrated by Mr. Khan and his close associates for mercenary reasons and that the military was never involved and didn’t know about Mr. Khan’s subterfuge and deviousness.

The fact and reality of the situation are that there was no quid pro quo in Gen. Musharraf’s pardon of Mr. Khan. Mr. de Borchgrave also, surprisingly, egregiously omitted the Bush administration’s sanguine acceptance of Gen. Musharraf’s explanation and the administration’s public praise of the way he addressed and handled the Khan issue.

TALAT WASEEM

Press counselor

Embassy of Pakistan

Washington

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