Gregory Benford does an excellent job of setting the stage for the coming centuries' miracle technologies ("Biology: 2001," November).
Like all good science fiction writers (and he is one of the best) he extrapolates the technical aspects of these developments into the logical consequences in all fields.
But I disagree with one of his conclusions. Over the course of history, the wealthy have never gained much more advantage over the rest of us than they have always had. Progress invariably makes luxuries affordable to the masses.
At first genetic "cosmetics" will probably be an astronomically priced extravagance, but market forces will generally make versions of these techniques available to any budget in packages that may differ but will be just as effective. After all you can't afford a BMW on a Ford Escort salary, but both will get you from one spot on the map to the next.
The rise of the technological plutocracy makes for great fiction, and it will likely remain just that.
Clifford W. Acre
Guns and Mutters
Many thanks to William R. Tonso for finally documenting the public's ignorance of so-called assault weapons, as fueled by the media and the anti-gun lobby ("Shooting Blind," November). I would like to add a few points.
First, the term "assault weapon" itself is an invented
propaganda term. What the military developed is an assault
rifle, a weapon designed to gain advantage in armed combat
through "firepower," i.e., spraying a large number of smaller, less
lethal bullets. While the military and
police later borrowed this concept and procured large-magazine 9mm pistols
for self-defense, these weapons are poor choices for an "assault" and were never labeled as such, except by propagandists.
Second, because these weapons were designed as a deliberate trade-off of lethality and accuracy for firepower, they are not particularly deadly weapons, compared to revolvers, hunting rifles, or shotguns. For criminal purposes, they are an advantage only against armed adversaries, such as rival gang members or the police. When used in ordinary armed crime, they actually create an advantage to the victim, who is more likely to survive.
Third, though the media often imply these are fully automatic weapons, they actually argue against themselves; fully automatic fire is less, not more, deadly, because of the resulting loss in accuracy.
Ironically, we should be encouraging people to own these weapons, not banning them. While they are excellent for (perfectly legal) self-defense and Second Amendment purposes, they are less hazardous in the spontaneous crimes that legal gun owners commit, and the professional criminals who can use them to advantage will always get them anyway.
Kevin J. Gately
Glen Rock, NJ
I agree with your reasoning on every issue except the matter of guns and their control.