Writing letters in response to a syndicated opinion piece


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pax
April 25, 2007, 12:13 AM
Here's the opinion piece: http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/159788.html

Knives also cut bread and carve wood and aid surgery, but guns only shoot bullets. That's what they are designed to do, and that's what they do.

When we talk about protecting our right to have guns, we are talking about protecting our right to shoot bullets. So what is it that's so important to shoot at?

The principal defense of guns is constitutional. The Second Amendment ensures, "a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."


It's used as the final authority, to be deferred to even if not agreed with or understood. But the Constitution isn't the Bible. (The Second Amendment, being an amendment, is a testament to the Constitution's ability to correct itself.) And the Founding Fathers were neither infallible nor divine.

And times change.

Does anyone any longer believe that a well-regulated militia is necessary for a free state? Why do those who fall back on the constitutional defense so often avoid the terms "militia" and "state"?

And why, after the massacre at Virginia Tech -- hours after -- did Sen. John McCain proclaim, "I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon"?

Just what is it, precisely, that he believes in? Is it the Constitution itself? (But surely he thinks it was wise to change the Constitution to abolish slavery, give women the vote, end Prohibition and so on?) Or is it the guns themselves that he believes in?

It would be refreshing to have a politician try to defend guns without any reference to the Second Amendment, but on the merits of guns. What if, hours after the killings, McCain had stood at the podium and said instead, "Guns are good because ... "

But what would have followed? Guns are good because they provide the ultimate self-defense? While I'm sure some people believe that having a gun at their bedside will make them safer, they are wrong. This is not my opinion, and it's not a political or controversial statement. It is a fact. Guns kept in the home for self-protection are 43 times more likely to kill a family member, friend or acquaintance than to kill an intruder, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Guns on the street make us less safe. For every justifiable handgun homicide, there are more than 50 handgun murders, according to the FBI. The expanding right to carry concealed guns makes us even less safe.

So what right is being protected if it is not the right to be safe? The right to feel safe, at the expense of actual safety? Or perhaps guns are good because they facilitate hunting? It's a constitutional red herring, but no coincidence or surprise, that the National Rifle Association is so closely aligned with hunters -- they are the group's most powerful contingent.

Let's just assume, for a moment, that hunting is good. Really, really good. (It must be, if militias and self-defense don't explain guns.) How many of the nearly 3,000 children who are killed by firearms in the United States each year does the good of hunting justify? All of them? A handful? How many of the students and faculty at Virginia Tech? And what's so good about hunting, anyway? It's rarely talked about, but hunting for sport is just about as vile as we humans get. In the words of former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully, "Most wicked deeds are done because the doer proposes some good to himself ... (but) the killer for sport has no such comprehensible motive. He prefers death to life, darkness to light. He gets nothing except the satisfaction of saying, 'Something that wanted to live is dead.'" If the thrill of hunting were in the hunt, or even in the marksmanship, a camera would do just as well. (Imagine hunting cameras that looked and felt like guns.)

But something else is going on. Something that sounds as bad as it is. Hunters love death. Can someone explain to me why that's acceptable, or why that love of death should be more important than the safety of the 94 percent of us who don't have hunting licenses and don't hunt?

In 2004, more preschoolers than law enforcement officers were killed by firearms, according to the Children's Defense Fund. The number of children killed by guns in the United States each year is about three times greater than the number of servicemen and women killed annually in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, more children have been killed by guns in the past 25 years than the total number of American fatalities in all wars of the past five decades. It's possible that the upcoming election will be decided by the war in Iraq. But what about the far deadlier war at home?

About the writer:
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of two novels, "Everything Is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." He wrote this article for the Washington Post.

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pax
April 25, 2007, 12:20 AM
I was somewhat shocked to read this in my local (rural) paper tonight, and am trying to marshal my arguments for a SHORT letter to the editor. Then it occurred to me that this is a syndicated column, which means there are probably a few folks on THR whose local papers carried the same piece.

My thought is that I will take just one sentence in the piece, and answer it: Does anyone any longer believe that a well-regulated militia is necessary for a free state?

I'm going to unabashedly answer, "I DO!" to that rhetorical question, and tell him why.

Might springboard off something I wrote long ago, titled "Freedom Under Attack." Probably on THR somewhere, if I can find it. That piece was a response to 9/11 and the calls for increased security in our country. I pointed out that we as a nation simply could not afford to hire as many policemen as it would take to put an officer literally on every street corner, to provide security in a dangerous age ... and that doing so would necessarily involve sacrificing an unacceptable amount of freedom, even if we had the money to do it. How could we therefore keep our people, our country, safe, when under attack? The Founders had answered that question in the 2nd Amendment ...

***

So that's my basic plan of attack for this column. Anyone got other angles or ideas?

pax

Byron Quick
April 25, 2007, 04:15 AM
pax

An essay of John Ross' website http://john-ross.net/mistakes.htm

It's about mistakes we in the gun culture make when debating antis. Might be some ideas there.

The wording used in the Bill of Rights is clearly that of an enumeration of rights and not a granting of rights. My personal view is that a constitution amendment cannot legitimately modify the Bill of Rights.

I also get my right to keep and bears arms from another right-my right to life. From the right to life, I derive the basic human right to defend that life. From the basic human right of self defense, I derive the right to own the tools necessary to do so. Today, the best tool available for that purpose is firearms.

Consider Ross' challenge to the Fifth using the same logic some folks try to challenge the Second on.

Soljerblue
April 25, 2007, 04:42 AM
I venture to suggest the book by Dr. John Lott, "More Guns, Less Crime". He tears that column's argument to shreds, and his documentation is better than anything I've seen anywhere. When writing a response to any piece like this, your facts have to be clear and documented. The anti-gun argument is passionate, emotional, and usually based on slanted findings by sources with a proven anti-gun agenda. Anti-gun writers usually pick these questionable sources to quote, and the sources are only too happy to feed them high sounding statistics often distorted or twisted to make a point. But -- as we know -- when you pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel, you don't always win even with the facts on your side. :barf:

jeepmor
April 25, 2007, 05:53 AM
It's an insurance policy against tyranny from our government and invasion by other governments. It kept the japanese from directly beaching on the Pacific coast and invading America because they knew the common man would stand up and fight for his homeland.

You might state that if Virginia Tech had allowed concealed carry, this Cho character would not have had the courage to shoot up the campus for fear that he would be taken down by someone other than himself or a LEO in the process, someone protecting their own life, or that of others. Can you honestly tell me that if you were cornered in one of those college classrooms and some man or woman produced a pistol and shot Cho dead or fired some rounds and made him turn another direction or flee that you would not be thankful, come on now, be realistic, we all want to die of natural causes, and bullets are not one of them.

Then I might ask the journalist that drafted the article, do you eat meat, are those leather shoes, is that a leather gucci bag? Hmmm, that was an animal that wanted to live but died for your meal, feet and purse. Simply because you did not personally execute this animal for your sustenance and apparel makes you no less guilty of being responsible for the animals' death. Had you not wanted meat or leather, there would be no demand for this type of business now would there?

This is like the argument I pose to the ultra green folks who don't want trees cut down and don't want to use oil. My argument is that it's unrealistic. That toilet paper you use, comes from trees, that paper you write on, comes from trees. That car you drive, runs on oil, those roads you drive on, are generated with asphalt, again, oil makes it possible. Then they say, but I ride my bike everywhere. I reply, those tires on your bike, are made with oil, all those plastic components on your bike, are made with oil. Then some say, well, I walk everywhere. I reply, those fancy sneakers, the core product that makes plastics possible, is oil. That goretex jacket, oil, that plastic toothbrush, oil. That plane you used to goto that exotic wonderland you talk about so much, got you there with oil.

You could pose the same argument about guns. That freedom of speech you have, guns made that come about, not debate with the British, but us pushing them back with guns. The reason we are not all serfs like in the UK, guns. The reason the only attacks on United States soil are cowardly suicide attacks at best, guns. The reason the japanese did not just swarm our beaches, guns. The reason your free to express your opinions as loudly as you wish in this country, guns and people's willingness to live or die for those freedoms by using bullets. The reason crime is lower in areas of high percentage of CCW holders, is the guns. Some criminals actually make their plans based upon whether or not they will be met with armed resistance to their massacres. And you see, they like to choose areas that don't allow guns, so that it insures they won't be met with resistance. Guns are why Israel has a problem with suicide bombers instead of guns, it's a cowards attack and they know good and well that if they tried it with guns, they would barely even get their gun drawn and they would be put down by another human being protecting themselves or others with guns, and rightfully so.

Having just refreshed this thread though, seeing mjrodney's response is spot on. Ignore the media, they will only entertain points of view that they agree with. However, your representatives will not ignore the people that put them there if they wish to stay there. Well put mjrodney, very well put.

bogie
April 25, 2007, 07:27 AM
One thing - the author is hoping you derail.

It doesn't matter that RKBA is important to the security of a free state. That's what makes Joe Sixpack yawn.

It _is_ also important to personal security. If you can hook into safety for Joe Sixpack or Mary Soccermom, that's more "photogenic."

It's early, and I gotta get going to ths hospital. Someone else think for me.

orionengnr
April 25, 2007, 09:23 AM
...About the writer:
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of two novels..,

Actually three, if you count this flight of fancy... :rolleyes:

Pax, I like the approach of refuting one point. If it were me, I'd take on the ludicrous but oft-quoted 43-to-one assertion.

Of course, the "children" fallacy is pretty ripe for asault too..

Sure like to see how your response turns out. Good luck.

Dr. Dickie
April 25, 2007, 10:27 AM
Does anyone know the title of the article in the NEJM that the author cites as "fact."
I have access to the Journal and would be interested in reading the article, since in my experience such studies rarely reach conclusions supported by their survey, and are cited as supporting things that they do not.
Guns kept in the home for self-protection are 43 times more likely to kill a family member, friend or acquaintance than to kill an intruder,

What I suspect is, this means the other person staying in the home (friend or acquaintance) attacked the person, and they defended themselves. Which is of course not anti-gun, but pro. I suppose that the author believe you only need protection from intruders.

K-Romulus
April 25, 2007, 11:17 AM
Here is a link to the online NEJM article (subscription required):

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/314/24/1557

Volume 314:1557-1560 June 12, 1986 Number 24

Protection or peril? An analysis of firearm-related deaths in the home
AL Kellermann, and DT Reay

Abstract

To study the epidemiology of deaths involving firearms kept in the home, we reviewed all the gunshot deaths that occurred in King County, Washington (population 1,270,000), from 1978 through 1983. The medical examiner's case files were supplemented by police records or interviews with investigating officers or both, to obtain specific information about the circumstances, the scene of the incident, the type of firearm involved, and the relationship of the suspect to the victim. A total of 743 firearm-related deaths occurred during this six-year period, 398 of which (54 percent) occurred in the residence where the firearm was kept. Only 2 of these 398 deaths (0.5 percent) involved an intruder shot during attempted entry. Seven persons (1.8 percent) were killed in self-defense. For every case of self-protection homicide involving a firearm kept in the home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 suicides involving firearms. Hand-guns were used in 70.5 percent of these deaths. The advisability of keeping firearms in the home for protection must be questioned.

pax
April 25, 2007, 11:19 AM
mjrodney ~

No intention of contacting the columnist. I'm writing a letter to the editor, which (if published) will be seen by roughly the same people who saw the dreck in the column.

Because it's a syndicated column, I would like THR members to check your local papers and see if this column was printed in yours, too. If it was, I would like to see a group effort to answer the points in this column so we can each write a letter to our own local paper about it.

That's why I started this in the Activism (do something) Forum, instead of in the L&P (rant or gripe) forum.

pax

Carl N. Brown
April 25, 2007, 11:30 AM
I would recommend always keeping a copy of your original
on file and comparing it to what gets published.

I submitted a 600 word op ed on AWB and 2A to a newspaper in
resonse to another op ed.
The newspaper edited it down to a 288 letter to the editor.
Parts were cut out entirely, or paraphrased in some cases
altering or shading my original meaning.
The person I was responding to posted elsewhere that I
had argued with "inconsistent lucidity."

pax
April 25, 2007, 11:31 AM
Dr. Dickie ~

You're right.

There's another big, gaping, obvious hole in that "43 times more likely" study. It presumes that killing someone is the invariable outcome when a gun is used for self-defense. It does not track the number of times a gun in the home was used to deter violence, or even to fire a non-killing shot at an attacker, driving the attacker away without anyone getting killed. Obviously, such non-lethal outcomes were not tracked by the study, but they would constitute the vast majority of defensive gun uses. Brandishing would be far more common than shooting, and however common shooting is, a surprisingly high percentage of people shot with a handgun do survive.

Considering that more than half the gun deaths in this country are deliberate suicides, the really deceptive thing about "43 times more likely" is that it is used to imply that suicidal people will not kill themselves by some other method if a gun is not available -- or that the presence of the gun is the deciding factor in the decision to suicide.

Thus, the authors of the study simply discard the vast majority of defensive gun uses, while simultaneously inflating the number of deaths "resulting from" a gun in the home without regard for whether the presence of the gun was actually the deciding factor or not.

And that's where your point plays back in, too: an acquaintance, a next-door-neighbor in a bad neighborhood, the nutso ex-boyfriend, the familiar face of a known panhandler, your roommate's drug-crazed brother -- all of these people are "known to the homeowner" but any of them could also present a justified use of deadly force.

Plenty of fodder there!

pax

jeepmor
April 25, 2007, 01:26 PM
pax, if your writing a letter to the editor, please ask for the sources of said facts puported in their claims. We can then dig for flaws in the analysis or discredit their conviction if they refuse. Either way, I think it keeps the argument on a level field and keeps us on the high road.

svtruth
April 25, 2007, 01:37 PM
is 21 years ago, haven't accidental deaths declined?
Also 396 deaths out of 7,620,000 person years of exposure is very low.
Additionally, any gun homicides that occurred in a setting of domestic violence are not excess mortality. Abusers kill with what ever is at hand.
Good luck.

Correia
April 25, 2007, 01:43 PM
pax, I'm actually going to put this in the discussion area of Activism. It fits there a little better.

pax
April 25, 2007, 01:48 PM
Thanks, Correia. I wasn't sure which was better -- because as I said, I do want other people to write letters addressing this same article, too.

Discussion is fine, though. At the moment, that seems to be all we're doing anyway.

pax

kludge
April 25, 2007, 06:58 PM
While I'm sure some people believe that having a gun at their bedside will make them safer, they are wrong. This is not my opinion, and it's not a political or controversial statement. It is a fact. Guns kept in the home for self-protection are 43 times more likely to kill a family member, friend or acquaintance than to kill an intruder, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is NOT a fact! The NEJM study is absolute bunk. I'm sure someone can find a link that shows the debunking. It did not follow the scientific method; it did not include any incidents of defensive gun use. It also implies that the "gun" that did the killing was the one that was kept for self defense, when that was not the case at all. It also didn't take into account any lifestyle factors, which is always the biggest factor in homocide.

Besides, if one gun makes you 43 times more likely to die, then I should already be dead. :D And since you, pax, have yours on your hip all the time your days are numbered. :)

Guns on the street make us less safe.

WRONG! Criminals on the street make use less safe. Solution: Lock up the criminals!

For every justifiable handgun homicide, there are more than 50 handgun murders, according to the FBI. The expanding right to carry concealed guns makes us even less safe.

Again, this does not show ANY gun use that is defensive that does not result in the death of the criminal. This is not NOT scientific analysis. I know! I have a science degree! (BSEE):cuss:

As for the rest of it, it's nearly impossible to argue with someone who bases their arguments on emotions, I don't know if I'd even try. He doesn't like guns. So what. He doesn't like hunting. So what.

bogie
April 26, 2007, 08:28 PM
I submitted a 600 word op ed on AWB and 2A to a newspaper in
resonse to another op ed.
The newspaper edited it down to a 288 letter to the editor.


Unless you KNOW your missive is going to be published as a "real" opinion piece (i.e., they actually asked for it, and told you how much room you had - and their idea of a "word" is a lot smaller than a lot of words...), you should start out small. That way it won't get "shrunk" by someone who is likely to edit according to their own ideas.

The "keep it simple" principle allows fewer errors too.

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