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Guns and statistics
In response to Connie Padgett's Back Talk item [June 13], I would like to thank her for showing me that there truly are people who think guns are the problem. She was bothered that some legislators think rationally on the subject of gun storage, and used some uncited numbers of people killed by others with guns in 1999-2000. Her number of 94 children dying in 1999-2000 shocked me, because the Center for Disease Control, an anti-gun group, documented only 142 deaths nationwide in 1999 for children aged 0-14 .

Even if 94 is true, take your calculator out and figure out how much less than 1 percent of the child population that is. Now do some research on how many children die from car crashes, poisonings, and drowning in buckets. The CDC found in 1996 that there were 21 accidental firearms deaths nationwide to 0-15 year olds, while 80 0-10 year olds drowned in bathtubs.

If you wish to encourage safe-storage laws, please research the Merced, Calif., incident where an intruder killed three children with a pitchfork. The oldest daughter knew how to use a gun, but luckily it was locked away to comply with local laws (Sierra Times, September 2000). The popular saying is often, "If it saves one child's life, it's worth it," but be sure to remember how many rapes, kidnappings, and assaults are prevented because the criminal is afraid of being shot by law-abiding citizens. You may know that Washington, D.C. has banned firearms ownership and has a per-capita murder rate of 56.9. Across the river in Arlington, Va., where the people can have guns, the rate is 1.6 (FBI, "Crime in the United States," 1998).

All people should stand up for what they believe in, and if you wish to support the Rapist Protection Act, good for you. But, in the interest of any nearby children, please be sure to contact your local law enforcement groups and ask them to refrain from bringing their weapons if someone assaults you. You might also wish to lock your kitchen drawers, considering what happened in Japan recently. Good thing they have such strict gun laws; no children were shot that day.
--BRAD WALLACE, DURHAM

Less filler, great taste
The Independent just keeps getting better and better. In a word, the reason is content. Most any publication could have dug up the Charles Kuralt FBI files story ["A Radical on the Road?" June 13]. But the Indy had the creativity and reporters to do it.

As we see less and less real news and more and more People magazine-style filler material, it is refreshing to see The Independent continue to report news with real meaning and interest.

By the way, I recommend anyone who was politically active in the '50s, '60s and '70s to put in a Freedom of Information request for their FBI files. You might be surprised to see J. Edgar was interested in you, too.

Keep up the good work.
--HAROLD NORMAN, RALEIGH

Swings both ways
It seems to me that Louis St. Lewis wants to have it both ways ["In the Pink," June 20]. In his third paragraph he pleads to be accepted as an artist notwithstanding his sexual preference, (a noble and worthy posture). Yet in the following paragraph he dreams of seeing a museum exhibition of solely gay artists. Hello!!! The art world particularly has been friendly, not to say accepting, of gay artists for centuries without pointing out their sexual preference. What purpose would be served by segregating them? I have never inquired into the sexual orientation of an artist, but rather judged their work solely on the merits. Which brings me to another point: St. Lewis's work is execrable. I have attended several of his most recent exhibitions at Gallery C and am amazed that people buy his work. The only reason I could surmise is that he is a self-promoter of the first rank, arriving in a white stretch limousine accompanied by flamboyantly outfitted serving persons and he himself dressed in outrageous costumes. What's the matter Louis--don't you have confidence in the work itself? Oh, and by the way, if you are going to assume a nom de plume, get your saints right. There is no Saint named Lewis; there is one named Louis.
--ALEJANDRO CRESPI, RALEIGH

Been there, done that
In response to the Louis St. Lewis "gay art show" ["In the Pink," June 20], I think it was already done in New York City. The show was at the Whitney (The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000). From what I remember, most of the names he mentioned and more were represented. I do not believe that too many benefactors were running scared, in fact it was a pretty successful show. As for the question of "How many young people walk through our museums today, unaware of the major contributions of gay artists?" I would think it would be about the same number of young people unaware of the major contributions of straight artists. I would think they are more aware of color, composition, ideas, etc., than they are of what gender the artist is out "bagging" on the weekends.
--SEAN "CITYKANSASCITY" LIVINGSTONE, BROOKLYN, N.Y.

Rehab vs. revenge
I really enjoyed reading Hal Crowther's piece of insightful writing ["Death and the Madman," June 13]. I loved his perception that "insanity and creative genius are at times inseparable." And was tickled and cheered at his views regarding "modern American pharmacy and psychiatry." However, the last three paragraphs rattled my cage.

I have a good friend who recently asked me to be his best man at his upcoming wedding. We've known each other for a few years and I consider him to be a wise and educated spiritual advisor. He helps manage an interfaith spiritual order of which I am a member. The order operates out of a nonprofit that functions to distribute spiritual materials, at no charge, to criminals worldwide. The nonprofit is based in an ashram locally and their project is huge. They've been doing this for 28 years, have more than 40,000 people on their mailing list, and my friend is on the board of directors. He makes $50 a month, has devoted his life to service, and is one of the most dedicated spiritual seekers I know. He's also an ex-con from a nearby Southern state who did 23 years for murder and drug charges.

Now, I am not a "survivor" of murder by association, so I certainly cannot speak from personal experience. But I can speak personally of an ex-con who changed his life around--truly for the benefit of others. I vehemently disagree with Mr. Crowther's rhetorical question: "Can't we declare arbitrarily that killers ... are insane and hopelessly defective specimens?" I'm not an idiot. I realize that my friend may stand alone as a minority of the products of our prison and rehabilitations systems. However, I feel blessed and graced to have met such a being. He truly is a testimony that anyone can change. I realize how simplistic and naïve this may come across, but I am grateful that this one convict didn't end up on Mr. Crowther's "isolated penal colony."
--BILL WAGNER, CHAPEL HILL


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