Letters to the Editor

Bee readers respond to this question: How can gun violence be prevented?

The flag-draped casket of Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus arrives on stage for a memorial service at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Helus was one of twelve victims of the Borderline Bar & Grill mass shooting in Thousand Oaks.
The flag-draped casket of Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus arrives on stage for a memorial service at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Helus was one of twelve victims of the Borderline Bar & Grill mass shooting in Thousand Oaks. AP

In the wake of the shooting at the Thousand Oaks bar that left 12 dead, The Bee Editorial Board asked readers for their ideas on how gun violence can be prevented. Here are the letters The Bee received:

Let citizens carry guns as they wish

To start off, I must say that my views do not reflect that of organizations I have worked for, including the military. My qualifications to speak on the matter include years of personal research of firearms safety, laws and applications through text, online sources and extensive training from the Marines. I hold the military occupational specialty of combat marksmanship coach and have taught several friends and family how to shoot as a hobby on the side. Here are my thoughts on how to help prevent the likelihood for mass shootings to occur in the future:

The first step to stopping these tragedies from happening is to remove the yellow tape and allow law-abiding citizens to carry their firearms for protection in any place they so wish . There was more than one person in that bar (in Thousand Oaks) who could’ve responded and stopped further mayhem from occurring right from the get-go if they had the training and mindset to stop the shooter dead in his tracks. However, that cannot be the end all be all, that is just the quick fix that is always most effective in the moment.

What needs to happen is an educational revolution among the public in the nation as well as our youth. Here are three main points geared towards our youth: teaching kids how to stand up to bullies, how to be tolerant of others’ beliefs and not bully others themselves, and firearms safety and use. In regards to the general public, people should learn more about the laws in place already as well as firearms safety, how they work and proper applications.

Lastly, we must focus more on initiatives to help poverty-stricken areas to reduce the attraction to gangs and criminal lifestyles.

Desmend Yarbrough, Fresno

Guns don’t kill people; they do

The first thing I would recommend is the the wordage of your question should be adjusted. The gun is an inanimate object; it is incapable of a violent decision. A person chooses to perpetrate a violent act, using a gun. That puts the onus on the real issue, a person’s violent intent.

As gun owners we think that age requirements, proper training and a national clearinghouse for people with mental health issues that would disqualify them for gun ownership are all good ideas. A clear-headed look at the influence that the NRA has had as the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers, and its involvement in our national politics. The gun-show loopholes, (and) private parking lot sales of automatic weapons also needs addressing.

Thomas Cox, Clovis

Solution must be nationwide

Solving the horrendous gun violence problem has got to start at the national level and has got to include all 50 states.

There has got to be an extensive background check, waiting period, and completion of a serious gun-safety course when purchasing any firearm, including minimum age of 21.

This will by no means affect anyone’s rights as per the 2nd Amendment, but will only insure the proper people can buy and use firearms. It just comes down to the safety of all citizens. Sad that it has come to this, but times have changed, with many more people becoming much more violent.

Any sort of mental health or behavioral issue past or present should be cause enough to deny gun ownership and currently owned firearms must be removed from their homes. Mental illness and behavior deficits are usually not curable, even with medication. The courts must be involved to carry this out immediately when people are found acting incapably or irrational.

There should be no purchases of firearms over the internet unless they are sent to a store for pickup after the background check, the waiting period, and the safety course are completed. This includes ammunition and clips. Sales of magazines over 10 rounds, “bump stocks” and any other intensifying modification device must be made illegal nationwide.

Again, all states must abide by these rules that are initiated by the federal government. This is the only way this problem will ever slow down. Congress has got to get serious and act quickly on both sides of the aisle with the blessing of the president and the NRA.

Of course, bad guys will always find guns through theft and illegal street sales, but these laws will make it much harder for them.

David Faeth, Fresno

Issue is how we can defend ourselves

The Fresno Bee asks gun owners how the issue of gun violence can be solved. Wrong question. The question should be along the line of how one can defend themselves against gun violence.

In almost all the mass shootings in recent decades, there was an absence of an armed citizenry to fight back. In previous generations, the farther back you examine in the U.S.A.; people were much more able and willing to defend themselves, and this was actually encouraged and considered appropriate by society. Now, if you shoot a criminal, he or his family or some lawyer may sue you with either a civil or criminal charge.

“Gun violence” and other crime are just symptoms of how our nation has gone wrong from previous generational values.

Look at the promotion of violence in the media or video “games.” The lack of religion in modern society. And so forth.

But hey, the Democrats, socialists and liberals love violence and mayhem. More chances to try and end all freedoms for the decent people of this nation who just happen to be their greatest obstacle to gaining total power.

Jess King, Lindsay

Violent games, movies an issue

Guns may be the weapon of choice in mass killings, but cars, and trucks, as well as hammers, machetes, and any other implement the can be used destructively have also caused serious mayhem.

Maybe we should take a look at the extreme abundance of graphic violence in participatory games, not to mention movies, streaming videos, television, social media, cell phones, music, and 24-hour news that provide a steady diet of destruction to every nook and cranny of society.

Certainly there is something in this diet that indicates to some individuals that perpetrating violence and mayhem is a viable solution to whatever ails their minds/emotions/dispositions. Why is the “go to” resolution to a problem that is done by a minuscule percent of the overall population always to curtail the rights of the whole society? Maybe, the effort needs to be geared toward the problem, not the instrument used to commit these heinous acts.

Where is the entertainment industry in supporting treatment for mental illness, and providing edifying entertainment ... I reckon they’re busy banking all the money they’re making.

Larry McPhail, Oakhurst

Return to respect, belief in God

“God is Love.” I saw this neon sign shining from a run-down church on a dark night in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco in the 1960s. It was like a beacon of hope reaching out trying to save a tragic world devastated by drunkenness, hopelessness and loss. But these people wanted nothing to do with the holiness of God, the grace of Jesus, or the accountability of making good choices. Instead, they laid in the gutters covered with their own vomit.

Fast forward 60 years. American society seems to have done everything possible to extinguish godly values from our culture. Remove prayer from schools, abandon the sanctity of human life with abortion, set up a welfare system that condemns people into a 21st century version of slavery, and ignore the laws of our land, causing a vacuum filled with lawlessness and chaos.

Now we live in a world of humanism, environmentalism and relativism. God? He’s a myth. Integrity, truth? All up for a more enlightened interpretation based on animals and nature being equal to people. The glory of God, holiness, respect, and responsibility for life and family he blessed us with? A fairy tale.

Removed of all spiritual constraints and in a void of holiness we see evil, death, factions, and hate. In fact, it’s surprising that more carnage doesn’t take place every day.

Guns are just tools. They are inanimate objects made of metal, wood, and plastic. People kill people. If not with guns, then almost anything they can get their hands on.

The only way to end gun violence is to turn back to God. Embrace his love, forgiveness, and truth. Humble ourselves before him. Respect his laws. Love our fellow man. And be holy, because he is holy.

Bill Moore, Fresno

Analyze with facts, not hysteria

When the federal assault weapons ban was passed in 1994, one member of Congress strode down the Capitol steps to a table full of evil-looking weapons and proudly declared, “I can’t tell one from the other!”

The first question that occurred to me was: If you can’t tell one from the other, how could you ever hope to write a sensible law to control them?

That was the fundamental problem with the assault weapons ban. It was written by people who know nothing about the subject. Therefore, they wound up regulating cosmetic features which had nothing to do with the safety of the gun or keeping them out of the hands of people who should not have them. Does anyone really believe that banning a bayonet lug is going to change anything?

The primary feature of most of the gun law proposals is that they would change nothing. You may agree with various proposals or disagree with them, but apply them to the facts of any of the gun tragedies and you will find that almost none of the proposals would have prevented any of the tragedies. It is safe to say that no crime was prevented by banning bayonet lugs in 1994.

The primary feature of most gun regulation proposals is that they come from fear and hysteria, rather than knowledge and analysis.

The first step in solving any problem is to do some rational objective analysis and education to actually find out what we are talking about and what really works to reduce gun deaths without infringing on the millions of lawful citizens who never will commit a crime.

Pigs will fly first. Hysteria is more fun, on both sides.

Clifford Schaffer, Oakhurst

Health care part of solution

With gun violence being such a huge problem today, I believe there are two major issues that need to be focused on in terms of prevention. Neither of these involve keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.

The first is health care. When you look at other developed countries who don’t have gun violence issues, most people assume it’s because of their strict gun laws. However, many of these countries also have vastly different health-care systems than we do . I’m not talking about free health care because that is a different conversation entirely, but our approach to health care in the U.S. is quite outdated. We need to take mental health more seriously, and not just by pumping patients full of drugs. The health-care disparity between income levels is huge as well. I think if we take a better look at that system, we will be surprised as to how much can be changed, not just gun/violence issues. Especially in Fresno it could help drug-use issues as well.

The next item that needs to be addressed is focusing law enforcement’s and lawmakers’ attention on how to prevent the trafficking of illegal weapons, rather than regulate legal ones. I don’t know the statistics, but most of the weapons used to commit violent crimes are illegal, stolen, etc. We need to find a way to control that.

I’m all for background checks and mental health exams, proficiency tests to own guns. It’s for everyone’s safety. But I think if we looked at it from a different angle such as the above mentioned items, we might be surprised by the results.

Samantha Ventura, Fresno

Five steps can be taken now

There are no solutions, but there are steps to reducing gun violence. 1: Complete background checks. 2: Reasonable limitations on AR-15 style weapons, e.g., greater justification for possession than obtaining a CCW. 3: For military who have engaged in, or seen the wounds of, combat, here or abroad, an additional one-hour psychological examination after service, if those veterans intend to own guns. 4: Educational videos and services from the DOD and veterans to students beginning at middle school. 5: More education on what mental illness looks like, and sounds like, again from middle school onward. Other ideas exist; these are only a few.

Leslie W. Westmoreland, Fresno

Taking NRA safety class a must

I think we should require all gun owners to take the National Riffle Association’s gun safety class that they have offered for free for at least 60 years and receive a certificate of completion in order to buy, own, or shoot a gun. Similar to a driver’s license.

My father took me to the training when I was about 8 years old in Fresno and I have carried what they have taught me ever since. Nothing impressed me more as a child than all that information I learned about all the stuff I was infatuated with constantly on television, from war movies to cowboys and all the guns they used in real life as well as on TV, not to mention all the games my friends and I were playing with guns. I have much respect for the safety of others and a careful, cautious attitude at all times. I think their one night a week for two weeks would go along way to promoting safe gun handling and responsible ownership.

NRA should promote its training classes and gun-store owners should start asking customers if they have a certificate to introduce this new approach, it is in everyone’s best interest . This simple act would separate responsible American citizen gun owners from the criminally minded, and if we include legislation, that only U.S. citizens can own guns, it would go along way in lessening the senseless crimes of the ‘”llegal immigrants.”

I was a rebellious kid in school, caused a lot of trouble, but I never lost my sense of safety and respect around guns. You have a big part of the solution right in front of you! Take advantage of it!

S.A. Thompson, Coalinga

Gangs are the problem, not citizens

Trauma surgeon James Davis has an unique perspective on gun violence in Fresno and it is understandable that he would promote policies that he believes would reduce the carnage, but the NRA is not the problem. The NRA promotes gun safety and has numerous programs for training all citizens in the safe handling of firearms for hunting, self-defense and marksmanship. In his youth Dr. Davis hunted and now enjoys target shooting, but ignored the prime reason that we as Americans have our Second Amendment rights, self-protection.

In his workplace, he bravely “stared down” the real problem in Fresno: gangs. Background checks, gun registration and databases will not keep gangs from obtaining firearms because they steal them! And making it harder to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon will not deter the violence. CCW holders are not the problem! They all have to go through rigorous, state-mandated training every two years to continue to exercise this right.

My perspective: I am a survivor of gun violence perpetrated by an escaped convict. He had no trouble obtaining a concealed, .38 caliber revolver after being on the street for less than two weeks, but it took more than two months for me to obtain my permit to carry a weapon for self-defense, a right which I have exercised for over 25 years without incident.

Vern Lund, Madera