• U.S.

Forum, Nov. 18, 1974

10 minute read

Guns Are Dangerous to Your Health

To the Editors:

The great majority of homicides are committed by law-abiding, conscientious, rigid individuals who are unable to express aggression except in an explosive manner. They kill a loved one or an acquaintance against their own conscience. The presence of a gun is the critical variable in this type of homicide. In the absence of firearms, aggressive explosions end quickly, causing only verbal or physical assaults.

Given a certain number of guns in a particular community, a predictable number of accidents, suicides and homicides involving these weapons will result. It matters not who owns the guns; the critical question is the overall number in circulation. From the standpoint of homicide prevention, it is meaningless whether the gun is registered, licensed or inspected. The mere presence of the weapon, regardless of its legal status, creates a statistical probability for the occurrence of homicide.

The total ban on private ownership of handguns through federal legislation is inevitable. It is only a matter of time before the citizens of this country will refuse to tolerate the untold suffering and loss of life caused by the absence of such a law. The basic issue is: How much do we value human life?

Emanuel Tanay, M.D.


The writer, a professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University, has been studying the causes of homicide for 15 years and is now writing a book on the subject.

Though I agree that more uniform and sensible firearms laws are required, I must take strong exception to most of the assumptions implicit in your story “Battle Against the Gun” [Nov. 4].

Throughout the recitation of tragic killings there is the assumption that most of these would not have occurred if firearms, particularly handguns, were not present. To the contrary, a reading of history suggests that the problem is one of culture, not hardware. In the absence of guns, those prone to violence have always found devastating weapons.

The idea that there is something terrible in having the citizenry outgun the police is even more disturbing. Of those places where the reverse is the case (Chile, Cuba, Spain, the U.S.S.R.), banning most firearms and other weapons has facilitated the trampling of more basic freedoms.

Lance W. Haus

Ithaca, N. Y.

A gun has no will of its own. A gun does only what its owner causes it to do. The root of the problem is within the human heart. Cure the cause rather than treat surface symptoms.

Nate DeLisi

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Counting Negative Votes

The opportunity lost in this fall’s campaign was the chance for positive debate on the problems that confront the nation—and there was plenty to talk about. As a result, the election became a negative referendum. If Republicans generally turned the voters off, Democrats failed to turn them on. Neither party is offering a substantive national program, or even a sense of direction, at a time when the country urgently needs both.

This failure is most ominous for Republicans. Not only are we saddled with Watergate—temporarily, I trust—but the election has left us an even slimmer minority than before. Republicans will never be anything but a minority as long as we are perceived as a party of narrow special interests, a party too often indifferent to the needs and aspirations of the majority of our citizens.

The party can and will rebound. But we can do it only by developing a distinct set of programs that offer realistic answers to the tough problems, especially the economic ones, that face us all.

Charles H. Percy

U.S. Senator, Illinois

Washington, D.C.

With last Tuesday’s election, responsibility was passed from a lonely, trouble-plagued Republican presidency to an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. The electorate is expecting the gentlemen in Congress to take the initiative in rolling back the tidal wave of inflation. So, after all the bombast and promises, let’s see the Democrats put action where their mouths have been.

(Mrs.) Mary Moree Krewson

Stewartstown, Pa.

Biloxi Bested Boston

In your story about violence during Boston’s school desegregation [Oct. 21], the writer observed: “It might have been Birmingham or Biloxi in the 1960s—but it was Boston last week.”

Integration of the Biloxi public schools began in 1964 (our school district was the first in Mississippi to desegregate). Newsmen came from all over the country to report the event. But they found not one demonstration concerning school desegregation, not one riot, no damage to property and no bloodshed. Incidentally, there were no federal troops in our city, and no federal marshals had to enter any of our schools.

To imply that the school situation in Biloxi in the 1960s could be compared to that in Boston this fall is unfair to the people of this community. They approached school desegregation with restraint, compassion and common sense.

Olon E. Ray,

Assistant Superintendent,

Biloxi Municipal Separate School District, Biloxi, Miss.

Inflation’s Saving Grace

Thank you for making me realize by your story “Hidden Side of Inflation” [Nov. 4] that sky-high prices are not hurting me as much as I thought. Now all I have to do to make ends meet is what every other average American is doing—give up my European vacation, my summer home, my houseboat.

I also realize that because of inflation, I have an extra bonus. Now that I can no longer afford all those materialistic items (like food), I am finally free to appreciate “older, nonmaterialistic American values.” Thanks, inflation, for saving my marriage.

John Alvey

Joliet, Ill.

Sociologist-Author Richard Sennett warns that inflation is feeding hatred of work in the working class. I disagree. People in general have been doing less and wanting to get paid more long before inflation set in. It is partly the cause, not the result, of our present inflation. The work ethic has disappeared, and pride in doing a job well has gone the way of many of our old standards.

Beulah L. Bruckheim

Binghamton, N. Y.

Smokey the Bear Lives

Some readers may conclude from your article “Let ‘Em Burn” [Oct. 28] that Smokey Bear is going to lay down his shovel. Don’t you believe it!

The success of current actions allowing some fires to assume their historic role in selected areas under proper conditions depends on even greater public efforts to prevent and control unwanted fires. Over the past 30 years, nine out of ten forest fires have been started by people. Nobody I know wants to let these man-caused fires occur. Smokey’s message is now more vital than ever.

John R. McGuire, Chief

U.S. Forest Service

Washington, D.C.

Surviving Breast Cancer

Having had a mastectomy, I found your article on breast cancer [Nov. 4] repugnant. The whole emphasis is on the loss of a breast and not, as it should be, on facing the hard fact of cancer.

The thousands of people who have suffered the loss of arms, legs, eyes or vital functions through disease or accident must feel bitter reading this maudlin discourse on the loss of one of the least needed organs of the body. If I had to have cancer, this is the form that I would choose over any other.

(Mrs.) Mary M. Yeiser


Reader Mary Ann Page’s suggestion that the “male-dominated medical world” work on the problem of plastic surgery for mastectomies is a ridiculous one that only promotes the myth that women need sex appeal to be “whole.” While the Reach to Recovery group works to eliminate such fears, she wishes only to inflate them. Probably few women are more whole than those who survive after facing death by cancer. They know the full measure of life.

Anne Boyden

Madison, Wis.

Shielded Room

A substantial portion of TIME’S critique of our paper, “Information Transmission under Conditions of Sensory Shielding” [Nov. 4], is based on Reporter Joe Hanlon’s comments in the New Scientist magazine, in which he discusses the Stanford Research Institute’s investigation of Uri Geller [the Israeli psychic and magician]. A principal argument in Hanlon’s article with regard to the S.R.I, work is that S.R.I, researchers were unaware that Geller could have obtained target information through the use of an implanted radio receiver in conjunction with confederates or bugged rooms. Since it was we who first brought this possibility to Hanlon’s attention when he visited us last January, we consider it irresponsible for him to lay naivete about such matters at our door.

Harold Puthoffand Russell Targ

Stanford Research Institute

Menlo Park, Calif.

Hanlon, a physicist, acknowledged in his New Scientist article that Puthoffand Targ had used a room shielded against radio waves. But he still questioned the efficacy of the shielding in preventing microwaves from passing through airconditioning ducts or cracks around the door and cited other possible means of evasion.

A Greek View of Greece

It is interesting to see the difference in perspective between those who live in a country and those who see it from outside. The American press salutes the fact that Greece is having free elections for the first time in ten years. That would seem just. And yet…

After the Greek junta collapsed, the world suddenly saw what a shambles the military dictatorship had made of our country. The army called Constantine Caramanlis back from France to pick up the pieces. It was the popular plea, and that of all political figures, that Mr. Caramanlis create a government of national unity with all parties represented, and for such a government to prepare elections.

Mr. Caramanlis refused. The apparatus of his former party was still intact. He called elections that gave the other parties less than two months to prepare. The man most handicapped by the situation was Andreas Papandreou, who had just returned to Greece after 6½ years in exile.

Yet Greece is witnessing an organizational miracle. Mr. Papandreou called on the Greek people to organize themselves. Committees of initiative have sprung up all over Greece, and in a matter of weeks the Panhellenic Socialist Movement has become a major fact in Greek life.

Melina Mercouri


The star of Never on Sunday, an opponent of the deposed junta, has interrupted her show business career to run for Parliament, which continues a family tradition. Her father was an M.P., and her grandfather served as mayor of Athens.

Behind L.BJ.’s Door

You report Doris Kearns as saying that Lyndon Johnson once told her that she reminded him strongly of his mother [Oct. 14]. If all of Doris Kearns’ psychohistorical analysis of Lyndon Johnson is based on as shaky a premise as that one, with which I am personally familiar, it is neither brilliant nor perceptive. I well recall a visit Ms. Kearns made to the L.B.J. ranch after Johnson had left office. As she left a room where we were gathered, the former President said to her, “You remind me of my mother.” As the door closed behind her, Johnson turned to me and added, “My mother had a weight problem, too.”

Mary Hardesty

Austin, Texas

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