- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Bullets baloney

Clarence Page is quick to place blame on the National Rifle Association for the lack of a national database of ballistics information on firearms ("'Fingerprint' bullets?" Commentary, Friday). The reality, however, is that lawmakers at the federal and state levels acknowledge the total lack of evidence that such a system would reduce violent crime and have been unwilling to invest the billions of dollars it would waste.
It is well-established that the majority of firearms used in criminal activity (perhaps even the Washington-area's sniper killings) are obtained illegally. Thus, a ballistics database would be useless for tracking their current status.
A database could only be applied to new guns, unless a national firearms registry were instituted that would require all firearms owners to submit their firearms for "fingerprinting." Proponents usually fail to count the gigantic cost of such a measure, as seen by Canada's recently instituted firearms registry program.
Canadian politicians initially promised that their national firearms registry would cost less than $20 million and would drastically reduce firearm crime. The true cost of the program has soared to more than $1 billion, and an estimated 30 percent of firearms in Canada have not been registered due to noncompliance and gun crime is still on the rise in Canada.
If we extrapolate the cost of Canada's system to fit the United States, such a program would exceed $100 billion, and we could reasonably assume that more than 100 million firearms would remain unregistered.
In short, I wish Mr. Page would explain to readers how a national firearms ballistics database makes sense. After all, it won't match a shooter with a weapon, it will cost the taxpayer more than $100 billion, it would leave at least 100 million illegal firearms untested, and there is no data whatsoever in any nations with such registries that these measures will reduce crime. International experience shows that stringent gun-control measures are more likely to actually increase violent crime.
Alan Gottlieb, the gun-rights advocate whom Mr. Page quoted, was only partially right when he said that "ballistics-fingerprint proponents are not gun experts." Based upon Mr. Page's own analysis, they are neither crime-control nor economic experts, either.

RICK SCHWARTZ
Crown Point, Ind.

Crying wolf on terrorism?

In his Oct. 6 column, "Brewing in Brazil" (Commentary), Deroy Murdock came up with an admirably contrived, if bumptious, thesis maintaining that along with Cuba and Venezuela, an Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva-run Brazil would constitute a potential nuclear threat to the United States and that all three nations should be viewed as possible members of a "nuclear-armed Axis of Evil in the Americas."
In response to this fear-mongering thesis, it is important to observe the inherent danger involved in cheapening anti-terrorist concerns by flippantly playing the terrorist card.
Mr. Murdock should be made aware that dissident political viewpoints do not automatically qualify one for a bunk bed at an al Qaeda training camp. His three "evil" nominees may each be going their own way, but to suggest that they constitute a nuclear bomb club is somewhat of a stretch and citing the chronically mistaken Constantine Menges as his source hardly terminates the discussion.
To begin with, Cuba is an aging radical regime that nobody left, right or center except for a fraction of Miami's fading Cuban-American leadership, could possibly believe is involved in a nuclear program when it cannot even afford the fuel to maintain a credible flight program for its shrunken air force. The constitutional government of Hugo Chavez is confrontational and often unwise, but it has never shown terrorist potential. As for Brazil, a Lula da Silva victory in the Oct. 27 runoff is more likely to witness a move toward economic orthodoxy (to the disappointment of his more militant supporters) than a crash nuclear program.
If the terrorist label is to be preserved for situations of genuine concern and not be wasted on intellectual gobbledygook, it should be saved for identifying real menaces to U.S. security, not wasted on those forging a respectful, if divergent, ideological path.
It is true that Brazil once possessed a nuclear potential, developed at a time when it was under right-wing military rule, just as did Argentina under its particularly brutal military dictatorship, but these have long been dismantled under their civilian successor governments.
Brazil's main concern right now, like Venezuela's and Cuba's, is to recover its shattered economy. Clearly, this subject doesn't call for self-indulgence but for dispassionate analysis, which certainly wasn't in evidence in the aforementioned column.

LUISA RUEDA
Research associate
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Washington

A dream deferred

Paula Dobriansky's attempt to recast the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development as a success for developing nations and the environment rings hollow ("A dream worth sustaining," Op-Ed, Tuesday).
The most notable features of the summit were the near unanimous rejection of the Bush administration's do-nothing approach to climate change and the lack of binding agreements on sustainable development or environmental protection.
America's closest ally, Great Britain, and its largest trading partner, Canada, both announced their intentions to ratify the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, but because of the Bush administration's strenuous efforts to keep any discussion of climate change off the agenda, the summit failed to produce a workable, comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem.
On issues of clean water, sanitation and renewable energy, firm commitments were rejected in favor of unenforceable "voluntary partnerships" between governments and the private sector. These agreements, which provide no mechanism to ensure that corporations act responsibly, are a sorely inadequate response to the challenges presented by chronic Third World poverty and environmental degradation.
The Bush administration's head-in-the-sand attitude toward global warming and its refusal to hold multinational corporations accountable for their actions, ensured that the summit will be remembered as a disappointment. A rare chance for 189 nations to formulate a comprehensive approach to the economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century was lost in Johannesburg.

STEPHEN MILLS
Washington

Dairy defense

I'm curious about the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Pierre De Groote's stance against dairy cattle and drinking milk ("Got beer?" Letters, Wednesday). Living on a farm with about a hundred head of beef cattle, I know somewhat what cows are like. Regardless of how Disney might portray them, let me tell you that cows are not the smartest animals out there. They're not your dog or cat.
As for Mr. De Groote blaming Americans' hefty waistlines on milk, that's plain silly. On his trip to America from his native Belgium, did he not observe all the fast food restaurants, the cheap soda prices, and the fact that most Americans generally do not earn their bread with hard labor and strenuous exercise?
As for Belgium's policy of serving beer to school-age children, presumably because it is healthier than milk, what can one say? When having a major surgery, which would you prefer your surgeon to drink before the operation, milk or beer? I'd prefer my doctor to say: "Hey bartender, milk with a double shot of Hershey's, please."

RICKY LEE MEADOWS
Locust Grove, Va.


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