- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2002

Editorial criticizing suit against gun manufacturers misses mark

Your Jan. 3 editorial, "Jurisnuisance," takes the Illinois Appellate Court and me personally to task for the court's Dec. 31 decision that my clients have a valid cause of action in public nuisance against the manufacturers of handguns used by juveniles to murder my clients' sons and daughter on the streets of Chicago. Your vituperative outburst is based on so many misconceptions or outright falsehoods that it is difficult to catalog them all, but I shall endeavor to try.
First, the appellate court has not "decided [the lawsuit] in favor of gun-control groups and money-grubbing trial lawyers." Indeed, the court has not "decided" the lawsuit at all. It simply held that we have alleged the required elements of a public nuisance cause of action sufficiently that we should be permitted to proceed to the next stage of the case, discovery, or the gathering of proof for submission to a jury to make the ultimate decision.
Also, the plaintiffs in this case are not "gun-control groups" but, rather, the parents of murdered young people.
Furthermore, these plaintiffs are not represented by "money-grubbing trial lawyers." My law firm, Katten Muchin Zavis, and I, as well as our co-counsel from two other distinguished legal organizations, are rendering all of our service on this case pro bono publico, or free of charge in the public interest. Thus, at no time, contrary to your baseless canard, will I or any of my co-counsel be "spending the money he and his ilk wheedle into their pockets by pursuing gun manufacturers." There is no "cashing in as jurisprudence" here.
Finally, for at least two reasons, our allegation that the defendant handgun manufacturers "set in motion a chain of events with the foreseeable result being the death of our clients" is not "like saying Chevrolet, by selling its Corvette sports car, 'set in motion a chain of events with the foreseeable result' that someone might cause a fatal accident." First, our complaint quoted liberally in the appellate court's opinion, which the author of the editorial obviously did not read alleges that the defendant handgun manufacturers have intentionally established and maintained specific marketing and distribution practices that are designed to make handguns both attractive and accessible to criminally oriented young people in the city of Chicago. I am not aware of any such intentional conduct being attributed to Chevrolet or any other automobile manufacturer.
Second, at the oral argument in this case, one of the appellate court justices specifically rejected the handgun manufacturers' analogy to automobiles being misused by drunken drivers or others as instruments of death. The justice observed: "But, counsel, your clients' products are designed to kill people. Doesn't that impose on them a greater responsibility to take care in how those products are distributed?" Ditto for your analogy to "a TV … tossed into someone's bubble bath" as a "potentially deadly weapon."
Next time, before you cavalierly misstate facts and impugn individuals' integrity, do your homework.

JONATHAN K. BAUM
Chicago

Cyprus on the verge of peace?

The Jan. 2 Op-Ed column, "Time to walk the talk," by Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican and chairman emeritus of the House International Relations Committee, was refreshing.
The piece is especially welcome at such a critical juncture in the history of the Cyprus problem. It is timely and accurately touches upon the need for real progress on the issue.
Americans of Greek descent are cautiously optimistic that a solution, within the framework of U.N. Security Council resolutions, is within reach.
As the congressman states, such a solution will only benefit all interested parties involved: the United States, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.

ANDREW T. BANIS
President
American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association
WashingtonIn his Jan. 2 Op-ed column "Time to walk the talk," Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman recognizes that the talks scheduled next month between Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides "constitute the most propitious opportunity to resolve the Cyprus problem in more than four years." This is important, because the U.S. Congress and Mr. Gilman can do much to help bring about a lasting and just resolution of the Cyprus problem.
However, had Mr. Gilman admitted that this new opportunity came about as a result of the efforts and insistence of President Denktash, he would have contributed to the success of the talks. Instead, Mr. Gilman offers various one-sided judgments in favor of the Greek Cypriots. He clearly does not do justice to the facts of the case.
Nonetheless, we hope that all outsiders, including Mr. Gilman, give their support and blessing to the peace efforts of both leaders.

ORHAN KAYMAKCALAN
President
Assembly of Turkish American Associations
Washington

'Decimating' Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is unrealistic

Mohammed Ayoob is correct in pointing out that Kashmir and terrorism are the two political issues at the center of Indo-Pakistan relations ("South Asia's nuclear dangers," Op-ed, Jan. 4). However, he ends up presenting completely unrealistic methods of dealing with the situation.
Mr. Ayoob almost virtually ignores the significant contribution made by Pakistan in the successful campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Recycling New Delhi's official position, he denigrates President Pervez Musharraf's far-reaching steps to curb extremism in his country as "cosmetic" and goes on to suggest the use of sanctions against Pakistan. Like India, Mr. Ayoob is unable to see the real import of these steps due to his animus towards Pakistan.
His suggestion to "forcefully decimate" Pakistan's nuclear capability is downright irresponsible. Why should the United States do that? To give India a complete monopoly of power over South Asia so that it can further twist the arm of its smaller neighbors? Pakistanis see their country's nuclear capability as a guarantee, of sorts, to live in dignity and honor with India. The backlash evoked by even the suggestion of "decimating" Pakistan's nuclear assets could be unimaginable. And it would cut across all sections of Pakistani society.
It is heartening that policy-making in Washington is in the hands of more sensible people.

NADIA NAQVI
Alexandria

In opposing contraception, Catholic bishops rely on rich church tradition

Charles Davis' screed against the Roman Catholic bishops demands a response ("Catholic bishops out of touch with church laity," Letters, Jan. 4).
The fact that many Catholics choose to sin does not repudiate the bishops' role as apostolic successors to speak for the church on matters of morality. The church's stance against contraception did not begin with the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae but is of a piece with her long-standing defense of life and the dignity of the human person. In fact, the church's stance against usury the lending of money at exorbitant rates flowed from this belief in social justice, based on the fundamental dignity of human beings. Predatory practices such as usury, then as now, harmed the poor almost exclusively.
Were the bishops to depend on the Catholic laity for guiding church teaching, they would have to begin by abandoning the most fundamental beliefs Catholics hold. Past surveys have shown that a majority of Catholics no longer understand that the bread and wine consecrated at Mass become the body and blood of Jesus, as has been the constant understanding in the church since the Apostles lived.
In the same issue as Mr. Davis' diatribe, you reported that marijuana has become the nation's No. 1 cash crop. Does the attorney general still speak for the U.S. legal system when he states that marijuana cultivation and distribution are illegal?

CARL MATZKE
Alabaster, Ala.

Impossible statistic

The Jan. 1 front-page article "Census tells U.S. success stories" illuminated a hitherto poorly understood facet of U.S. population statistics. I refer to the stunning revelation in the paragraph headed "Sex" that "women make up 51.3 percent of the population and men 50.9 percent."
Should this perplexing situation become a trend, this nation will confront a serious problem.

JAMES V. DOLSON
Springfield


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