Wednesday, October 27, 2004

No more trophy hunts

This letter is in reference to the trophy hunt of black bears in Maryland that started and ended in one day (“Hunt lasts one day, removes 20 bears” Metro, Tuesday). I am disgusted. I am appalled. I am saddened. But even more, after 25 years, I am embarrassed to say that I live in Maryland.

In response to David Ciekot’s statement in The Washington Times, “Most of [the protesters] I’ve seen don’t live in a territory where there are bears, so they don’t know… [T]here are a lot of bears.” I would like to say the following: Black bears, once nearly extinct in Maryland, have made a remarkable comeback, thanks to a half-century of environmental programs to protect bears and their habitat. The small population is now estimated at 266 to 437 bears in the state. There is absolutely no justifiable reason to have allowed a black bear massacre in Maryland — it won’t reimburse farmers for their crops, it won’t teach people to store food away from bears, and it won’t show people that there are humane, non-lethal alternatives in managing wildlife. The only thing it will do is allow trophy hunters to display the heads of these magnificent creatures on their walls. So, maybe I don’t live in “a territory where there are bears,” but I do know that a trophy hunt is definitely not the answer.



Black support for Bush

In his article, “Unexpected ‘bump’ for Bush” (Commentary, Oct. 22), Clarence Page seems surprised that President Bush is gaining support among blacks. So surprised that he found himself blinking his eyes in disbelief over “two major polls showing a surprisingly big bump for Mr. Bush among blacks.”

Mr. Page suspects President Bush’s appointments of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice may have “helped increase the comfort level even among black voters who disagree with him on many social and economic issues.” He then denigrates these high-level appointments by saying, “A little symbolism can go a long way with some voters.”

Shame on Mr. Page for suggesting that these two highly qualified and respected people are mere symbols. Symbols of what, Mr. Page? Symbols of what black Americans can be when they follow their dreams instead of the empty promises of the Democratic Party? And when he says “some voters,” is he referring to the blacks who are supporting President Bush, and is he implying that they are naive to accept a little symbolism?

Mr. Page warns that Democratic leaders should not take black voters for granted, which is what Sen. John Kerry seems to be doing lately while joining Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in black churches across the South. Mr. Kerry may fool some blacks with this sudden rush of “brotherhood,” but he surely won’t fool all of the conservative black Christians who have come out in large numbers in support of President Bush. And this, I suspect, is what accounts for that “unexpected ‘bump’ for Bush.”


Medaryville, Ind.

On Bush and Kerry on guns

National Rifle Association President Kayne Robinson says Sen. John Kerry is “the most anti-gun presidential candidate we’ve ever had” (“Kerry bags geese but plays down gory details,” Nation, Friday), and the NRA is spending $20 million to convince voters that Mr. Kerry wants to take their guns away.

Mr. Robinson and his friends on the right seem to have overlooked the fact that on the major gun issues, Mr. Kerry is in agreement with President Bush. Both candidates back the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, renewal of the assault-weapons ban, closing the gun-show loophole and vigorous enforcement of the laws on the books.

But instead of recognizing that Mr. Bush, Mr. Kerry and most voters share essentially the same position on guns — a recent poll showed gun-owning voters by a margin of 85 percent to 13 percent said they support closing the gun-show loophole and by a 66 percent to 32 percent said they supported renewing the assault-weapons ban — the NRA is trying to portray Mr. Kerry as a gun grabber.

In fact, most of the NRA’s claims don’t stand up to scrutiny. Here are some examples:

• The NRA says Mr. Kerry is the most anti-gun presidential candidate ever and points to Mr. Kerry’s lifetime “F” rating from the NRA, along with more than 50 votes against the NRA’s positions. The fact is that Mr. Kerry is a hunter and lifelong gun owner, and he is the first Democratic nominee to include explicit support for the Second Amendment right to bear arms in his party’s platform.

It’s true that Mr. Kerry has a lifetime F rating from the NRA, but this doesn’t prove anything. Mr. Bush would have an F, too, if he had served in the Senate and voted the way he talks.

• The NRA says Mr. Kerry wants to shut down gun shows.

The fact is that Mr. Kerry supports closing the gun-show loophole, not shutting down gun shows. The absence of background checks on purchases from unlicensed sellers at gun shows allows thousands of guns to slip into the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers and even potential terrorists.

The NRA asserts that requiring background checks will force gun shows out of business, yet hundreds of gun shows are held every year in the 12 states that have closed the loophole.

Mr. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft — along with Sens. Chuck Hagel, John W. Warner, Richard G. Lugar and Mike DeWine and other prominent Republicans — are on record in support of closing the loophole.

• The NRA says Mr. Kerry voted to close off hundreds of thousands of acres to hunters.

Mr. Kerry has voted to protect wilderness areas from road building, a position most sportsmen support. The Kerry-Edwards campaign has issued a Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights establishing “the basic rights of all Americans to legally and safely hunt and fish,” including the right to own firearms, the right to access to hunting and fishing grounds, and the right to high-quality fish and wildlife habitat.

• The NRA says, “With a 20-year record of voting against sportsmen’s rights, it’s no wonder John Kerry has been called a ‘hero’ by the Humane Society of the United States,” implying that Mr. Kerry has won kudos for voting against hunting.

The fact is that The Humane Society’s “hero” list is not based on hunting votes. Its legislative scorecard includes votes on banning commerce in exotic animals and efforts to punch loopholes in the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other environmental legislation. Among the Humane Society’s “heroes” are A-rated NRA allies such as Republican Reps. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Edward Whitfield of Kentucky and A-plus-rated Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican.

The NRA claims to oppose playing politics with guns, but that’s exactly what its lobbyists are doing in this election. It appears to be more interested in getting Republicans elected than in building a bipartisan consensus in favor of gun rights, and its smear campaign against Mr. Kerry is just one more example.

The NRA is deeply threatened by Mr. Kerry’s support for gun rights, because it shows that neither party owns the Second Amendment. The candidates for president offer sharply different visions for our future, but on gun rights, their differences are few.


Executive director

Americans for Gun Safety


Turkey secular?

Timur Soylemez, counselor at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, claims that Turkey is “secular” (“Turkey meeting EU standards,” Letters, Friday). Nothing could be further from the truth.

In “The Clash of Civilizations,” well-known author and Harvard University professor Samuel P. Huntington states that “in the 1980s and 1990s, the supposedly secular Turkish government maintained an Office of Religious Affairs with a budget larger than those of some ministries, financed the construction of mosques, required religious instruction in all public schools, and provided funding to Islamic schools.”

Turkey is clearly very far from being secular.


Newton, Mass.

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