I sure learned a lot about guns and those who love them from the recent letters to the Daily Planet that were prompted by the slaying of Meleia Willis-Starbuck and the editor’s subsequent commentary on gun control. One letter writer claims that all women should be armed with handguns in order to fend off would-be rapists. Presumably gun possession would also help prevent muggings; thus men should pack heat every time they leave the house too. While it’s true that with everyone carrying guns the potential for the damn things to go off increases and they may be used in anger rather than self defense and their proliferation will increase the possibility of them finding their way into the hands of children, drunks and the mentally impaired, it will not be the gun’s fault if someone is killed or wounded in error (that is little solace to any victim’s family, I’m sure).
One letter writer from Kansas (who refers to us as being in “The People’s Republic of California”) claims we Berkeley residents don’t fully understand proper firearm maintenance and technique and that we write about guns from ignorance. Here are some things I’m not ignorant of:
• According to FBI statistics, in the year 2000 his state of Kansas had a higher rate of overall crime, murder and rape than California.
• Also from the FBI, violent crime, rape, and murder all rose from 2003 to 2004 in Wichita (the writer’s home city) while here in Berkeley in those same years the number of rapes rose by one while there was a huge drop in the other crimes.
• And according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence the nation’s crime rate has fallen in recent years but states that chose to fight crime by loosening their concealed weapons laws have experienced a significantly smaller drop in crime than states which looked to other means to combat crime in their communities.
Nonetheless we hear from our gun loving brethren that it is not the gun that kills, but the person.
However, in the case that started this discussion, the shooter’s intended target was not the one struck down. Had he decided to employ a knife or blunt object it is a certainty that Meleia would have not died. Indeed one of the greatest tragedies communities suffer is when a stray bullet takes an innocent life. Collateral deaths tend only to result when assailants use guns.
Another writer tells the Planet’s editor that “the lies you tell get people killed every day.” I’m amazed I read this bizarre claim. I should have stopped reading the letter when he called the editor “a condescending bitch.” He concludes by suggesting that “if you want go after something, why not cars” as they are responsible for more deaths than guns. Excuse us if we wait until cars are aimed and fired at our citizenry.
As if this whole affair weren’t sad enough we have to endure one letter writer’s complaint that Meleia’s death has garnered so much more publicity because of her left-leaning political views. It’s hard to overstate how cruelly insensitive is such a remark. Never mind the great promise Meleia had demonstrated and what she had already accomplished. The writer would have been better served claiming that media reaction was fueled by this being an educated African American woman of some means, rather than one of the many who die in relative anonymity within our nation’s inner cities. This same letter-writer started off by noting “some more young blacks kill each other and the editor...”
Such callousness and its deeper meaning is left to the individual to interpret. Yes, I’ve learned a lot about guns from recent letters. I’ve learned that guns and the right to posses them pale in importance next to three promises some great men once put forth for this country, those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Moreover, guns often stand in the way of these promises, as one did for Meleia Willis-Starbuck.
Richard Hourula is a Berkeley resident.›