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Exchanging Fire

Dan Baum misses the mark for the best way to control gun violence [“How to Make Your Own AR-15,” Report, June]. The truth is that guns don’t kill people, ammunition does — and banning ammunition or restricting its sale would be considerably easier than banning firearms themselves. Bullets are relatively unambiguous in purpose, consist of easily traceable components, and are very difficult to make at home — even with a 3-D printer. Regulating ammunition would allow gun hobbyists to continue to construct and modify their weapons while restricting their ability to do harm to others. The U.S. Constitution grants Americans the right to bear arms, but does it also grant them the right to live ammunition?

Nicholas Lamm

Baum is right that banning possession of AR-15 semiautomatic rifles is a fool’s errand and that gun owners have a responsibility to keep their firearms secure from criminals and unsupervised children. But mandating gun safes and making owners criminally liable for acts committed with guns stolen from their homes isn’t closing the barn door after the horse has bolted; it’s opening that door to tyranny.

There’s only one way to ensure that a gun-safe requirement is being followed: random inspections. That sounds more like a police state than a republic in which citizens are innocent until proven guilty.

Making gun owners responsible for criminal misuse of stolen firearms is patently ridiculous. Since there isn’t a safe that can’t be breached, a mandatory gun-safe law would have no practical impact — other than discouraging law-abiding Americans from exercising their natural, civil, and constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

Most American gun owners are extremely responsible: they keep their firearms secure and teach their children about gun safety. Both the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation have programs designed to encourage these practices. Prescribing a cure for the few dangerously lax gun owners through mandatory gun-safe and liability laws is no less a feel-good nonsolution than banning the AR-15.

Robert Farago
Publisher, The Truth About Guns
Austin, Tex.

Dan Baum responds:
Individually, most gun owners are responsible. But as a community, we’re a mess. Led by the NRA, the gun-rights lobby has been so focused on protecting its right to keep and bear arms that it has completely ignored its most important duty — to be conscientious stewards of these dangerous devices. I never hear the NRA talk about gun owners’ responsibilities to society at large, except when it is urging people to buy and carry more guns.

To raise the specter of random inspections is dishonest. If a gun that shows up at a crime scene is traced to me, and I cannot demonstrate that it was properly locked up and that I reported the theft to the police, then I should be considered criminally liable — not for the offense committed with the gun, but for failure to respect an important addendum to the four rules laid out by the father of modern pistol shooting, Jeff Cooper: Always maintain control of your firearm.

The problem of gun violence could be largely solved with no government intervention at all if gun owners considered it unforgivable to leave a gun in a nightstand, closet, or glove compartment. But we’ve demonstrated that we don’t, so we should not be surprised when the nanny state steps in. We have only ourselves to blame.

The Postcolony

As Rebecca Solnit points out in “The Separating Sickness” [Miscellany, June], the effects of leprosy are not only bacteriological but also social. The stigma associated with the disease is so strong that some patients who have been cured but still display such symptoms as peripheral neuropathy, which often causes visible damage to the feet, would rather tell their employers that they suffer from type 2 diabetes than admit they once had leprosy.

Advocates have begun to openly challenge that stigma. Vagavathalli Narsappa, for instance, has fought to overturn a law barring people with leprosy from holding public office in India, where 130,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The rest of us ought to follow his lead.

Sarah Nancollas
Chief Executive, Lepra
Colchester, England


Ted Conover’s “The Way of All Flesh” [Report, May] incorrectly implied that antibiotics promote the formation of abscesses in the liver of cattle. In fact, antibiotics such as tylosin are used to control abscesses, which are thought to form when cattle are moved to feedlots and their diet switches from grass to grain.


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August 2013

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