Second Amendment Thoughts
In between the extremist factions of the firearms prohibitionists on one hand and the anarchic NRA lobby on the other lies most of the ambivalent America public. Representing that majority, I would like to point out the common mistake that Craig M. Collins made in his editorial "Why Guns?" (May): that of blurring, even ignoring, the important distinction between gun control and gun prohibition.
The frustrated majority of American citizens wants reasonable and responsible controls within our free market to ensure that firearms are not easily obtained by the wrong people and for the wrong reasons. Waiting periods, profile checks on prospective purchasers, safety-testing requirements, and other measures are known beyond any doubt to save lives without infringing on basic Second Amendment rights—hardly "disarming a free nation."
It bears repeating that freedom must be ever coupled with responsibility. To maintain our constitutional right to own lethal weapons, we must bear the responsibility of curbing the abuses of such a system to the best of our ability.
Scotts Valley, CA
Proponents of gun control like to assert that the Founding Fathers merely defended the right to possess muzzle-loading arms—guns distinctly underpowered by today's standards. But when the authors of the Bill of Rights penned the Second Amendment, they were recognizing the individual's right to possess state-of-the-art military arms: not only fast-reloading, caliber .69 smoothbore muskets and handguns, but also that newest, long-range terror of the battlefield, the rifle. Fresh from a bloody war and still apprehensive of the risks of freedom, the newborn nation nevertheless demanded a formal statement of the right to keep and bear the most modern of arms for personal and community defense.
The founders were men of great principle. They didn't tie gun rights to the level of technology then available because they understood that it is neither freedom nor guns of which citizens must beware but the power of the state.
Lake Bluff, IL
Our Founding Fathers fought a war that they never could have fought if they had not been armed. They gave us an epic document, the Constitution, to protect us forever—not from foreign powers, pirates, thieves or criminals, but from a government they feared could become as abusive as the one they had just fought.
Gun control laws don't work. The man who shot those poor children in Stockton was a prohibited person for many reasons. If present gun laws were enforced, he would not have had any firearm. He was receiving disability for mental problems, so he was prohibited as a mental patient. He had been in court for violence many times, but it was always plea bargained down from a felony conviction. His crime is an indictment of our criminal justice system rather than a call for more gun laws. We need Crime Control, not more Gun Control.
Ronald P. Grunwald, M.D.
Peter W. Huber's article, "Courting Danger" (April) was particularly interesting to me as a practicing lawyer. Being a classical liberal and a lawyer is somewhat like being a physician in a concentration camp (especially when practicing real estate law in New York City). One is constantly bombarded by bad laws and surrounded by colleagues who support or prosecute under them.
However, there are some minor and unexpected rewards. Occasionally, while thumbing through legal periodicals, I find a court decision that partially reaffirms my faith in the American legal system. For example, consider the following, which was published in Case & Comment, March-April 1989:
ENEMA—Despite allegations of negligence and strict liability, a federal district court held that the publisher of a textbook was not liable for injuries sustained by a nursing student who, after consulting the textbook, treated herself for constipation by taking an enema consisting of hydrogen peroxide. Jones v. J.B. Lippincott Co., 694 F. Supp. 1216, 15 Media L.R. 2155 (DC Md).
Well, I guess there is some hope for this world.
Raymond N. Hannigan, Esq.
New York, NY
I found several things quite appalling about Doug Bandow's "What Next for NATO?" (April). First, that he should assume that the United States has no interests worth defending in Europe—despite the fact that we have hundreds of billions of capital investment, thousands of businesses, and millions of relatives there. Individuals have interests outside their bodies; countries have them outside their borders; one has a right to defend either.
Second, that he should not even deal with the strategic issue: that forward deployment is the fastest way to get troops to a battlefront (and our one hope of not having to go nuclear right away).
Third, that he should so fudge and side-step facts—for instance, that as a portion of GNP, U.S. defense spending is near modern lows; that Pentagon weapons counts include not just older Soviet weapons but older NATO ones; that Gorbachev has not cut, but improved, his offensive capability (for example, replacing SS-20s with SS-25s).
And finally, that he ignores Europe's biggest contribution to NATO defense: providing the battlefield.
Now That Makes Sense
I enjoyed reading the editorial "Sharper Images" (April), and I was pleased to be quoted in it. But the quote is actually a misquote. What I really said was that the automobile and television (not high-definition television) are the two most important inventions of the 20th century. The automobile gave mobility to people, and television gave mobility to ideas. Somehow that got garbled by Business Week, and it's been reappearing everywhere. Murphy's Law is clearly at work!
Member of Congress
15th District, PA
Despite the recent spate of media interest and energized circulation figures ("The Comics Grow Up" Charles Oliver, May), mainstream comics remain a pathetically small segment of entertainment publishing. The stories they present are, for the most part, not the sophisticated themes of truly adult literature. The virtually exclusive staple of mainstream comics remains the adolescent power fantasy of super-heroics.
Unmentioned in Oliver's article are several American comic books and publishers who are truly expanding the boundaries of the medium. At the top of my list is Love and Rockets, written and drawn by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez and published by Fantagraphics Books. The Hernandez brothers draw the characters, themes, and plots from Latino culture, both historical and modern, and examine the gamut of human virtues, evils, and perplexing situations.
Another great comic is Xenozoic Tales, published by Kitchen Sink. This series is set 500 years after some natural cataclysm has destroyed human civilization; when the survivors emerge from their hiding places they find the earth's ecology completely transformed. The main character, Jack "Cadillac" Tenrec, is a burly and somewhat superstitious environmentalist, a self-appointed guardian of the new wilderness.
Another excellent comic looks like a super-hero rag but is really a fascinating science fiction story about a man who happens to dress in leotards and is able to obliterate people with focused blasts of fusion energy. The Nexus series describes a fully realized galactic civilization, with a variety of sentient species dealing with one another in complex economic/political relationships. Nexus was examining the ethics of vigilantism and the corruptive nature of power long before The Dark Knight ever saw the light of day.
Many of the new adult comics have a sexually explicit nature, and by far the best of these is Omaha the Cat Dancer, the story of an exotic dancer and her graphic-artist boyfriend. But beyond the erotic trappings is a sophisticated story of political intrigue and social hypocrisy.
Comic books, or more generally the graphic-storytelling medium, will only "grow up" when it escapes the crypto-fascist trap of super-heroes and its cultish fan following and begins to reach a general audience with subjects of interest to adults in general.
North Hollywood, CA
Next month: special Letters section on the abortion debate.