There are too many guns in the U.S. [Crime, Oct. 21]. People should think about a society like Japan's, in which the possession of handguns by ordinary people is strictly prohibited. It's time for Americans to learn how to eliminate firearms from their society.
Everyone should understand that while forensic science is often vital to criminal investigations, it is not a cure-all. Investigative imagination, dogged police work and public vigilance are what solve crimes, not unreasonable supersleuth expectations or saturation coverage by the media. I hope the Beltway shootings won't give al-Qaeda terrorists any ideas or cause copycat killers to come out from under their rocks.
DANIEL B. JEFFS
Apple Valley, Calif.
Should there be a ballistics registry for firearms to help catch sniper killers? Critics say the pattern the gun barrel leaves on a bullet can be changed. Frequent firings will wear the groove pattern, but many guns are not fired all that much. Perhaps more important, even though the pattern may change, certain other guns could still be ruled out as possible sources of a bullet. Do government agencies require that your car or truck be registered? Of course they do. Why not your gun too?
The expense of collecting ballistics samples from every firearm and the bureaucracy required to maintain a national repository of owner information cannot be justified. The system would be useless in tracing the current owner of a stolen gun, and the percentage of shooting cases solved by such a system would be extremely small. Law-abiding gun owners and taxpayers in general would be far more adversely affected than the criminals by such a procedure.
The Washington Beltway sniper shootings are a unique kind of terrorism. If repeated in other places around the U.S., such shootings could paralyze the entire populace and destroy our economy just as effectively as would massive assaults. Ten snipers scattered around the 50 states could be just as terrible as the 19 suicide hijackers were.
If we Americans cannot address the issue of controlling assault weapons ourselves, perhaps the U.N. should adopt a resolution to send weapons inspectors to the U.S. and demand regime changes in the N.R.A. and the states where its money has helped elect politicians.
Whatever the U.S. is doing concerning gun regulation isn't working. This problem is getting out of control. People shouldn't have to live in fear. What kind of free nation is this? All Americans have to start asking themselves these questions: Do I really need a gun in my house? Is it worth risking the safety of any other person? Only well-trained law-enforcement officials with legitimate reasons should carry guns.
You reported that an Indian woman, Monica Besra, believes her abdominal tumor was healed by a miracle performed posthumously by Mother Teresa [Sequel, Oct. 21]. You noted that her husband believes that it was medicine, not a miracle, that cured her. Even if the medal bearing an image of Mother Teresa wasn't responsible for a miracle, couldn't Besra's faith in the nun have been a catalyst helping the medication that vanquished the tumor? It could be that one's faith is just as powerful a remedy as anything doctors prescribe. And no matter what the Roman Catholic Church decides about beatification, Mother Teresa was a saint.
THOMAS L. STEVENS
When Harry Dissed Colin
Although singer Harry Belafonte once profitably recorded The Banana Boat Song for the entertainment of a largely white audience, he recently raised the cliched but still inflammatory specter of the house Negro to criticize the actions of Secretary of State Colin Powell [People, Oct. 21]. Your reporting stated blandly that Powell's dignified response of calling the slave reference "unfortunate" made Belafonte's comment seem extreme, as if it weren't extreme in its own right. For my money, what Belafonte said was racist, ridiculous, cruel and downright stupid.
ANDREW E. DANIELS
Your report on the weapons that the U.S. could use in a war with Iraq [World, Oct. 21] noted that Iraq's best tactic would be to deploy weapons of mass destruction. While Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran, today his troops would have trouble getting close enough to deliver them. So what would be a possible Iraqi gambit? If the U.S. began military operations to soften up Iraq, Saddam would quickly ask the U.N. to send in weapons inspectors. He would then show the inspection team he doesn't have any weapons of mass destruction. There would be an international outcry to lift the sanctions and force the U.S. to pay reparations for any damage done. The U.S. needs the inspectors to go in before we attack.