Letter Box

Wednesday December 19, 2012

Civil rights vs. the right to safety? Editor of the Reformer:

I have been threatened with bodily harm by the neighborhood bully. When I asked for help from the Vermont State police I was told that in Vermont, "Anyone can say pretty much anything they want to anyone else." Unless they act on their threats, the police can do nothing. Not knowing if the bully is violent or, as I suspect and hope just a blowhard, I was not calmed by this news. A lawyer advised me it would be exceedingly difficult to get a restraining order against this bully since he had never been and was not residing with me. (That would have put the threat into the category of domestic assault.) So, there is not much I can do except hope that this bully is not violent and can’t get his hands on a glock or a semi-automatic rifle or some other instrument of destruction.

It’s difficult to understand why preventing such people from easily obtaining guns that are intended for killing other people violates their civil rights and not those of the other people. It is as difficult to understand why someone who threatens my life can get away with it because no one wants to curb his right to free speech. Bullying is illegal in schools, and in the workplace, but not in the neighborhood.

Perhaps we should return to the days of the Wild West and everyone wear holstered guns so we all know where we stand.

(Editor: Name withheld
by request

Putney, Dec. 15

Stop the insanity

Editor of the Reformer:

I have spent the better part of the weekend in shock and grief at the slaughter of innocents in Newtown, Conn. Shock and grief over the killing of children and dedicated teachers, yes, and at the fact that our culture, the country I call mine, has been unwilling to take any meaningful measures to stop the carnage that is repeatedly perpetrated on innocent and unsuspecting citizens, many of them children.

We, as a nation, have up to now been powerless, held hostage in effect, to a lobby that consists of those who make profit from the sale of weapons allied with those whose irrational fear causes them to fantasize about being safe from attackers if they have deadly firepower in their possession.

I am not against hunting. I am not against the need for self-defense. I am against private ownership of semi-automatic weaponry.

Every one of the horrific massacres perpetrated in recent years against our unsuspecting citizenry has involved semi-automatic weapons, the kind that shoots many bullets with one touch of the trigger. One touch, many bullets. Each of those 20 kindergartners was killed with a minimum of three automatic rifle rounds, with up to 11 high-powered bullets entering the body of each child. Eleven blasts. That is why there were no survivors.

What have we created? What are we unwilling to stop?

With this last shocking and near-to-home massacre, can we finally say no to those who profit from insanity? Are we as a nation, mature enough to actually protect our homeland? Yes, other nations have had tragic school shootings, but other nations in the wake of those shootings, have put stricter gun control measures in place so that high-powered weapons are not easily obtainable by the momentarily insane emotionally disturbed young men who are inevitably the killers of innocents.

We must stop this insanity. We must ban semi-automatic weapons.

Caitlin Adair,

Westminster West, Dec. 16

One solution?

Editor of the Reformer:

In the interest of full disclosure, I will first state that if I had any authority at all I would do away with all guns, bombs, and related items and the manufacturing of such. Then if we wanted to hurt each other we would have to revert to sticks and stones. Much more politically correct to use these "natural, organic, local" products.

Having said that, this is a time for discussion and any and all ideas that may lead to bettering our society. To spark discussion, how about gun libraries in our counties, or our state? All guns would be in these facilities. Gun collectors would be able to display/share their collections in well maintained cases. Owners would not have the worry of their guns at home. They would be in a secure facility. Guns would be maintained and cared for by staff and volunteers. Following the guidelines established by the staff and volunteers a gun could be checked out. A hunter could check out a gun she/he could not afford other wise, or use that old blunderbuss he/she always wanted to try. The shooting range would accommodate all. Always wanted to shoot a tommy gun? Have at it.

There would be heavy penalties for anyone coming into our state who did not follow our established protocol. Financing our program would be done by interested parties same as our book libraries.

Maybe this idea is far fetched, but let us do something. Let us learn from all that has happened and grow.

Stewart McDermet,

Dummerston, Dec. 18

Don’t make assumptions about autism

Editor of the Reformer:

As parents of and/or persons with autism spectrum diagnoses who live in this community, we would like to clarify some important and potentially damaging aspects of a recent Reformer article ("Windham County schools helping students cope," Dec. 18).

The article quoted HCRS Executive Director Judith Hayward who stated "... the alleged killer, had Asberger’s [sic] syndrome or some other personality disorder, it was important not to draw conclusions, or make assumptions about other children who suffer from mental illness."

Aspergers syndrome, following the publication of DSM5a to be known as an autism spectrum disorder, is definitively neither a personality disorder nor a type of mental illness. Persons with autism are in no way more inclined to violence than the average population; in many cases and in our own experience they are among the most gentle and emotionally empathetic people we know. In fact, persons with autism are significantly more likely to be victims of violence than to commit it.

Jennifer Elizabeth Brunton, Michael Fuller, Angie Givens and Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg,

Brattleboro, Dec. 18

Cherish and nurture the children

Editor of the Reformer:

Last Friday morning, a group of thirty Vermonters (civil servants, philanthropists, early childhood activists from many walks of life) gathered in Montpelier. Their charge was to form a unifying vision that could inspire and inform diverse efforts to support Vermont’s young children. This is what they came up with: To realize the promise of every Vermont child.

For me, this vision evokes a long-cherished quote by Spanish cellist Pablo Casals: "Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again.

"And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?

"We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move.

"You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?

"You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children."

Our response to the tragedy of the children’s murders and suicide in Connecticut cannot be simply to have tighter gun laws. We must cherish and nurture each of our children, including the Adams of the world. We must create the loving supports for families and children that will help each newborn child realize his or her promise. We must help each parent learn the skills that his or her child needs to grow into a healthy, productive individual.

It does take a village to raise a child: We are all responsible, and our efforts need to begin with our very youngest children, for whom services and support systems remain woefully inadequate.

Elizabeth Christie,

Putney, Dec. 18


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