Letter Box

Wednesday January 9, 2013

Why the outrage? Editor of the Reformer:

Thank you, Terry Carter, for the sentiments expressed at the beginning of your letter ("Deaths at home vs. deaths abroad," Jan. 1)

I hope that the reason the day of the Newtown shootings was the "worst day" of Mr. Obama’s presidency was because on that day he was forced to face the kind of carnage that often results from his own direct orders.

This man sits in the oval office like a Mafia don, micro-managing an assassination program. Many of his young "lieutenants" sit at video screens with joysticks and carry out his orders to kill people half a world away -- quite often killing women and children -- with Reapers and Hellfire missiles.

If computer-nerd Adam Lanza did indeed carry out the Newtown shootings -- which many people have questioned -- what is the difference between him and one of our computer-nerd soldiers, blowing away civilians by remote control, for instance? Like the Dec. 17, 2009, missile strike in Yemen that killed 42 people, most of them, women and children? Or, the "accident" on Sept. 2, 2012, that killed 12 civilians in Yemen, three of them children?

Why do so many Americans become outraged over the former event and not the latter ones? Why do events like Newtown take so many people by surprise? Our country celebrates war and weapons. This is who and what we have primarily chosen to be as a country -- a killing machine, a war machine. It even infects half my family. On Thanksgiving day two years ago, my gun shop owner brother thrust an assault rifle into my hands, saying: "This is the latest and the greatest. Everybody wants one of these." I cannot even begin to express how horrified I was.

The U.S. arms the rest of the world incessantly, and many of those weapons end up in the hands of children. Adam Lanza was 20 -- the age at which we ask many young men to kill for our country. And our Global War on Terror, about which our media and our politicians lie and lie and lie, shows no sign of ever ending.

When a so-called "weather bomb" hits here, why does no one ask whether or not it is our much-deserved karma? When will our bomb dropping ever stop? This is the 21st century. Why do we still have so many leaders who are utter barbarians? And rather than address this barbarism at its source -- Washington -- organizations like the NRA suggest instead that we fill our school with gun-toting people, from guards, to teachers, to administrators, so that every single American child would grow up thinking a gun is a beautiful and necessary thing.

Jacqueline Brook,

Putney, Jan. 3

Vermont must change gun laws

Editor of the Reformer:

Americans are shocked and temporarily numbed by the Newtown school murders of children and school staff. Each time such tragedies recur, we are horrified; but over time it is business as usual until the next senseless shooting.

While America’s federal gun laws are weak and relatively worthless, we Vermonters must examine our own permissive state laws and take action. Vermont gun laws are among the weakest of any state. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Vermont an F. Why?

Vermont does not: Require backgrounds checks to transfer firearms between parties; require permits to purchase rifles, shotguns or handguns; prohibit the transfer of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines; require firearm dealers or purchasers to obtain a state license; require reporting of mental health history or adjudications of gun purchasers; limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time; impose a waiting period on firearm purchasers; regulate unsafe handguns; allow local governments to regulate firearms; or require any permits or license to carry concealed firearms.

I have also read that firearms may be brought into the state without permits, and that a significant number of firearms used to kill people elsewhere have been traced to Vermont sources. In 2000, Vermont had the 16th lowest gun deaths/per capita in the states; but that came to 60 people who died from gun-related injuries; and also Vermont had the 16th highest rate of crime gun exports (crime guns originally sold in the state after being used in crimes states.) And I have read that a large percent of gun murders are traced to guns through unreported Vermont private sales in states outside the site of the murder(s).

And, oh yes, the NRA is strong in Vermont, alleges State Senate President Pro Tem, John Campbell. The NRA states that Vermont recognizes all other state permits, and no other state recognizes Vermont permits, possibly because Vermont requires so few.

Examples of NRA influence to VT politicians: 1) In 1990 the powerful NRA helped defeat congressman Peter Smith who lost the election to Bernie Sanders. Sanders later opposed the Brady Bill; and 2) Gov. Peter Shumlin received a $2,500 check in October 2012 from the NRA.

More horrendous murders will continue so long as almost anyone can get a gun, yes, in Vermont. We the people of Vermont must all protest loudly to our legislators, state and federal, to forbid guns in the population except for law enforcement, and law-abiding persons who are licensed to hunt with only certain guns. Much more than that will be required to quell the acceptance of violence in America and in our violent foreign policy.

Margaret Newton, MD,

West Brattleboro, Jan. 5

Do we need involuntary hospitalization?

Editor of the Reformer:

Dr. Robert Simpson’s article on gun violence and mental health treatment was beautifully and thoughtfully written ("Gun violence and children," Jan. 5-6). I would like to add one more issue to his thesis. Vermont is one of only two states in our 50 to have no statutory provision for involuntary hospitalization. Simply stated that means that a very ill person (who usually has zero insight into how far he/she has moved from what the rest of us consider reality) cannot be made to get help in a treatment center. The person has to actually do something bad before the police or the crisis team can act. Second-hand information from bystanders or the threatened party does not usually constitute enough cause for intervention. Since I have a severely mentally ill adult relative, I know this from personal experience over and over again here in Vermont. Bottom line -- in Vermont, civil liberty trumps health and common sense.

Thankfully, I have moved my relative back to Massachusetts, which is quite sane in its laws and their enforcement, after three horrible years in Vermont. My relative is still unmedicated, wandering around often in a very angry state of mind. But, when behavior becomes noticeable enough, police and a treatment team step in. Sadly, a 48-year-old person cannot be forced to accept what is healthiest for them, and believe me, I have tried for 27 years. But, at the very least, in crisis situations the authorities should have the tools with which to intervene in the best interest of both the patient and of the community. We are the ones who are nuts here in Vermont.

Claudette Hollenbeck,

Wilmington, Jan. 5


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