ARMS AND THE PEOPLE
It was refreshing to read Martin Kane's article on the firearms issue (Bang! Bang! You're Dead, March 18). Undoubtedly the hue and cry from both sides of the controversy will arrive at your mailbox.
I suggest very harsh penalties for crimes committed with firearms, or any other dangerous weapon for that matter. Let's place the burden on the criminal, not on the sportsman-citizen. Sportsmen provide millions of dollars per year, via excise taxes and hunting licenses, toward wildlife conservation and the upkeep of public lands that are available to all citizens for recreational use.
Perhaps, in this especially sophisticated age, we need not know how to shoot. Perhaps, too, we need not know how to throw a ball or sail a boat or climb a mountain. The skills to teach our sons may well be to live with smog, to enjoy traffic jams and to admire politicians who seek to ride on "popular" causes.
I wish to convey a little historic background in the defense of the Second Amendment and perhaps promote a better understanding of it, especially for your nonshooting sports readers. "Citizen soldiers" were early identified with democratic government. In about 340 B.C. Aristotle noted that oligarchies prevailed in lands where there was cavalry or heavy infantry (as only the rich could afford horses and heavy equipment), while democracies existed in lands whose strength depended upon the light arms owned by most citizens. Rousseau wrote that "all the victories of the early Romans, like those of Alexander, had been won by brave citizens who were ready, at need, to give their blood in the service of their country, but would never sell it."
In early America there was justifiable dislike for large standing armies, as mercenaries and professional soldiers historically have been inclined to ignore the rights of citizens. The constitutions of Vermont, Kansas, Ohio, North Carolina and Massachusetts state that "as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be [shall not be] kept up; and that the military should [will, must] be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power...."
Thomas Jefferson stated that for the security of the country the only alternate to a large standing army was a source of ready reserves. Thus in the U.S. we have the militia, which Webster defines as "all able-bodied male citizens between 18 and 45...divided into two classes, the organized militia of the individual states and the reserve militia." The "organized militia" is commonly called the National Guard. If Congress had accepted the original draft for the Second Amendment as submitted by the Pennsylvania delegation in 1789, we would be having a lot less trouble today with interpretation and the understanding of the "right" to bear arms. It read: "The people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves, their state or the United States, and for killing game, and no law shall be enacted for disarming the people except for crimes committed...."
Mr. Kane cites Switzerland's history of armed neutrality as the exception among European countries that have become involved in the wars that so often spread across the Continent. This leads one to wonder what effect the right to keep and bear arms might have had on the development and preservation of self-determination and self-government by the peoples of those other European countries.
CHARLES L. WARNER
Los Alamos, N. Mex.
Martin Kane did a superior job, in my estimation, and stands virtually alone in treating this controversial subject fairly and objectively. One point should be added, however. Lawful gun owners and users almost unanimously believe that the "problem" of firearms could be handled simply and easily without additional legislation if the courts would only get tough with those who commit crimes with weapons. Included in this category are rocks, pokers, chair legs, guns, knives and fists, to mention a few. Why discriminate? We think those criminals should be put away for real terms, instead of being freed on the excuse that they didn't have a platoon of legal talent present when they made their first few confessions. Or, if they are imprisoned, they certainly should not be paroled a short time later to repeat their crimes. We see it as a problem of enforcement and suitable punishment rather than one of legislating to the detriment of lawful gun owners, in a vain attempt to remove only one type of weapon from undesirable hands.
JOHN W. HAINES
Salt Lake City
I want to set the records straight regarding the 12-hour race at Sebring. There has been a great deal of controversy about a ridiculous claim by my fellow driver, Paul Hawkins, who was in a Ford GT-40, against the driving of Miss Liane Engeman of Holland, who was in a Javelin (The Birds, the Bees and the Porsches, April 1). Driving a Porsche myself, I passed Liane in the race many times and never had any trouble. I've raced against her on other occasions at such circuits as Sebring and Brands Hatch, and if there is any woman driver who deserves an award for fine driving and fair play it's Liane. I wish there were more men and women in professional racing like her.
My friend Paul, in his Australian way, lost his temper, and I don't blame him for that human fault. However, after he sleeps on it, I know he'll think differently about it and realize that what he said concerning the girl drivers was a lot of rubbish.