To the Editors: Bernhard Goetz [NATION, April 8], guilty or innocent, may have taken us to a new horizon by his actions to protect himself. But will our subways be safer in the future if half the passengers are carrying concealed handguns? Steve Laymon Linwood, N.J.
Your article about Goetz convinces me that our criminal-justice system is a sham. Goetz called himself a monster in his highly emotional original confession. This shows that he is an introspective man with a conscience, a man not accustomed to violence. I seriously doubt that his victims sat around assessing the morality of their conduct. Simie Maryles Van Dereck Provincetown, Mass.
Street crime is a result of poverty. We should put our money into improving impoverished areas, not building more prisons. Punishing individuals who are already victims of an unequal system will not cure anything. Timothy J. Péwé Rock Island, III.
I had to laugh at the claim made by the lawyer of one of Goetz's alleged victims: "Give me $5" was a request, not a demand made of Goetz. Yeah, sure. Brian O'Neill Hamden, Conn.
To many people, Goetz's actions were understandable, but I do not think he did the right thing. He has become an inspiration to others who may wish to act out their own revenge. Raul J. Garcia New York City
Why do you have to call Goetz a 98-lb weakling? Up against four strapping teenagers, most of us would look like weaklings. Premeditated self-defense is a perfectly rational response when one is confronted with four strong, savage, conscienceless youths. Laura Callahan Busch Chesterfield, Mo.
I do not feel sorry for Goetz. And I do not feel any safer knowing that I may be sharing a subway car with a copycat vigilante inspired by Goetz. Marian H. Neudel Chicago
One point is overlooked. Goetz felt responsible enough to turn himself in. I doubt that such a move ever crossed the minds of his victims. Stan Jonutis Worcester, Mass.
Conditions in our society brought Goetz to the edge. If anyone deserves to sit in jail, it is the politicians and judges who let crime get out of hand. Larry Zawilenski ChicagoSeething South Africa
I am shocked by President Reagan's suggestion that the marchers in South Africa were partly to blame for last week's bloodshed near Uitenhage [WORLD, April 8]. South Africa's blacks have a valid reason to protest. Everyone from the White House to Watts knows the apartheid system is wrong. John Ronnie Goodie Inglewood, Calif.
South Africa is playing with fire. The white minority will pay dearly if it does not change its ways, and the U.S. will have another headache. Louis M. Gagnon South Windsor, Conn.
The international community should be investing, not disinvesting, in South Africa. Investors can provide the black population with a better living standard and internal leverage for political change. Many other countries are greater offenders of their citizens' human rights. The anti-South Africa hysteria is absurdly disproportionate to our sins. Robert Wells Johannesburg
If both sides are to be blamed equally for the turmoil in South Africa, as President Reagan implies, why is it that only one side, the blacks, always gets killed? Zareen Ahmed Princeton, N.J.