- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

Climate and economics

I am even more optimistic about the future of the United States than Lawrence Kudlow (“Bullish Bush indicators,” Commentary, Friday). But the real danger to this country comes from the economic go-it-alone approach.

Starting in January, the European Union embarks on a path to reduce CO2 emissions. More countries will become part of an emissions trading plan devised for the Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The EU decided to go this way in exasperation with the Bush administration’s repudiation of progress made in the 1990s, when both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton supported the Kyoto Protocol.

Considering that other nations have learned to live with energy costs four to five times higher than what we have here, they are likely to impose import taxes on goods imported from the United States and other countries that have unfair and inconsiderate approaches to the global environment.

If this serves to bring down the World Trade Organization regime — the cornerstone of U.S. economic hegemony — then the blame will be with the United States.

PINCAS JAWETZ

New York

A weak defense

Throwing money into weapons projects doesn’t make you strong on defense (“Weak on defense,” Editorial, Sunday). We only have so much money. Making the right choices makes you strong on defense.

President Bush has chosen to fund missile defense while leaving the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection so poorly funded that they can barely scratch the surface of smuggling operations. Besides, our missile defense could only stop the missiles if our attackers target a city where our missile defense system is active, and if our defense system works better against the real thing than it has in its many failed trial runs.

If instead the terrorists put the bomb in a cargo ship and sailed it into New York harbor, the clues as to who did it would be obliterated in the blast, and we would have nothing but a claim on an anonymous Web site to go by. Mr. Bush has devoted over three times more money to missile defense than to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. Money spent on missile defense is wasted, since it can be outsmarted by a tramp steamer.

Money spent on immigration and customs enforcement might stop a suitcase nuke and provide greater control of our borders, one of the basic elements of sovereignty.

Mr. Bush has poured precious resources down a rat hole. That is one of many bad decisions that make him weak on defense.

CARL HENN

Rockville

Violence and the gun ban

Clarence Page (“Gun ban that didn’t,” Commentary, Saturday) admits the recently expired federal ban on semiautomatic rifles didn’t ban anything and that violence declined anyway. Yet he says most Americans want to do something to “slow the high tide of high-capacity weapons in this country.”

One is tempted to ask why. Is it desirable to ban guns that are relatively little used in violent crime? Fewer than 2 percent of gun crimes involve semiautomatic rifles. If it is, why is it? Mr. Page doesn’t say. It can’t be to reduce crime, since crime is falling without the ban.

For failure to renew this ineffective ban or to enact something stronger, Mr. Page blames politicians who fear single-issue voters. Yet he admits that if ban supporters were truly educated about their cause, they wouldn’t have wanted its renewal either.

More than 80 years ago, an uninformed public banned the consumption of alcohol citing the evils of “demon rum.” Today, a more informed public has learned that it cannot impose its will on a determined opposition, even if it is a minority, to ban products the opposition wishes to use.

And the public has learned that “demon rum” can have beneficial effects when used in moderation, proving that the public’s understanding of the evils of products can be wrong.

The case against banning semiautomatic rifles lies in the moderate use by their many owners. Millions of such owners shoot targets, hunt, and just collect firearms while harming no one.

Their moderate use of these firearms acts as a stabilizing influence on society by deterring crime, by training children in responsibility and character, by managing pests and by hunting for food.

Yet, Mr. Page would attack those activities and these moderate people in order to get at the few criminals who will not honor the laws he proposes.

Banning these weapons will not be effective against criminals any more than Prohibition prevented criminals from trafficking in alcohol.

Many legislators recognize the futility of bans and that they can produce new criminal activity.

Mr. Page cites the use of a semiautomatic rifle by the D.C.- area snipers when a single-shot hunting rifle could have been used against each of the victims.

The snipers could have carried out their crimes with a Revolutionary War flintlock rifle. By focusing on semiautomatic rifles to ban, Mr. Page diverts attention from real programs that could work such as Project Exile — which would work whether the criminal uses semi-automatic rifles or flintlock rifles.

Let’s hope that we can agree on programs to ban criminals from our streets instead fighting over gun bans. Society will be much better off.

PHILIP F. LEE

Silver Spring

Clarence Page points out that programs like the NRA-supported Project Exile “are spreading across the country” because “instead of just targeting guns, they target the outlaws who misuse guns.” True, but it’s also because they work, which is more than can be said for the expired 1994 assault weapons ban whose passing he laments.

Despite claims by gun-control advocates that letting the 1994 assault weapons ban expire will result in a surge of gun crimes and police killings, its passing will only demonstrate how little effect such laws have.

Research funded by the Justice Department under the Clinton administration concluded that the ban’s effect on gun violence “has been uncertain.”

When the authors released their updated report looking at data through 2000, the first six years of the ban, they concluded, “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.”

Before the 1994 law, so-called assault weapons were used in fewer than 1 percent of violent crimes despite the fact that Americans own more than 30 million legal semiautomatic weapons.

More than 85 percent of the nearly 200 semiautomatic firearms affected by the assault weapons ban are rifles, the general type of firearm least often used in crimes.

According to the FBI, rifles of any type are used in 3 percent of homicides annually, while knives are used in 13 percent, bare hands in 5 percent and blunt objects in 4 percent.

The anti-gun crowd has deliberately confused the public by mixing the terms “full-” and “semiautomatic” and by using the dangerous-sounding term “assault” rifle. They are fond of stating how terrible are firearms that can fire as fast as one can pull the trigger. Never mind that that description fits a six-shot revolver as well.

Recent reductions in violent crime have been achieved by punishing the criminal use of firearms. In the last three years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, federal gun prosecutions have increased by 68 percent.

When we control our goons, we don’t need to control our guns.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

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