Texting while driving is crazy

I am referring to a recent Times article, "New law: Texting on hands-free devices while driving will be legal Jan. 1."

It is not safe to text or use a cellphone while driving.

Common sense tells us so; studies have demonstrated this; and real life traffic statistics show nearly 500,000 injuries and more than 5,000 deaths related to cellphone use while driving in 2009. Yet, the California Legislature has passed a law ignoring reason. Presumably our protector, Gov. Jerry Brown, has signed that astounding law.

How did this shocking situation come about with scant or no public information, warning, or outcry by watchdog groups? And oddly, the Times began its article about the situation, "California drivers, feel free to text away -- as long as you don't use your fingers."

This law must go!

Dorothy Kemp

El Cerrito

New heroes are recognized

We have always had heroes -- the men and women serving in the military, our sports figures and those serving in our fire and police departments.

New heroes have recently emerged, though they've always been there. They are the unsung heroes serving in their own quiet way, influencing our lives.

I am referring to the teachers and staff members at our schools. Over the years, they have had to deal with disruptive classrooms, school violence, irate parents, budget constraints, and ever imposing standards. They have had to cope with those difficulties, all the while trying to teach the most precious asset in parents' lives, our children.

Now, they have taken on a new task by protecting our children from the escalating gun violence happening in our schools and communities. They haven't asked for this role, nor are they trained for it. In most cases, their reactions are spur of the moment and many end up protecting our gifts with their lives.

What a gift to all of us. Thank you, heroes!

David Rohrer

Richmond

Sowell doesn't merit printing

In his Dec. 21 column in the Times, "Gun-control zealots are ignoring some key facts," Thomas Sowell is once again making statements that are not accurate.

Most advocates of gun control are not saying take away single-fire guns that people have for sport or protection. It is the assault weapons we want banned: those that can kill 20 innocent children in minutes.

We need better mental health care and a ban on all assault weapons for individuals. Leave the assault weapons for the military and the police.

And then, on Dec. 28, I read another shocking Sowell column, "Know-it-alls are ruining what works in U.S."

Sowell wrote, "After watching a documentary about the tragic story of Jonestown, I was struck by the utterly unthinking way that so many people put themselves completely at the mercy of a glib and warped man, who led them to degradation and destruction. And I could not help thinking of the parallel with the way we put a glib and warped man in the White House.

"There are people calling for the banning of assault weapons who could not define an 'assault weapon' if their life depended on it. Yet the ignorant expect others to take them seriously."

Sowell is ruining the Times, not those he claims to be know-it-alls and intellectuals. The letters to the editor are read before printing. Is anyone reading Sowell's columns before printing?

I have come to appreciate the Bay Area News Group and the many different opinions from columnists and readers. I am appalled he could write such garbage and have it printed.

Ginny Kamp

Berkeley

Weapons must be regulated

The Second Amendment adamantly requires a "well-regulated militia," not the under-regulated one hawked by the NRA, because it is "necessary to the security of a free state" -- including theaters, malls, churches and schools.

Congress must restore the assault weapons ban, nationally mandate trigger locks and retroactively restrict gun magazines to 10 rounds for civilians.

Trigger locks would have saved the lives of Newtown's children and the shooter's mother. Smaller capacity magazines give victims better chances for defense against gunmen -- as the Tucson massacre demonstrated.

Law-abiding civilians must exchange large-capacity magazines for equivalent smaller ones through eminent domain. This doesn't violate rights "to bear arms." It simply well-regulates how they're borne.

Congress must enact universal, mental health care; it's a proven, cost-effective way to stop spree-shootings before they occur. Being penny wise and pound-foolish has deadly consequences.

All gun purchases must go through vetted, licensed dealers -- not private sellers -- just as we efficaciously regulate alcohol. National background databases will identify those who shouldn't possess guns.

Our children's right to life trumps a gun collector's fetish. Let's proactively thwart further spree killings.

Ed Chainey

Richmond

Local actions regarding guns

Editorial writers and politicians do not seem to have learned anything from the last four years of gridlock. Do not expect top-down solutions to any problem. Local actions are the only way to change things.

Specifically:

  • The Supreme Court said a gun-control law had to show a need. The Justices have said this about other behavioral laws, specifically anti-discrimination.

  • The Second Amendment calls for a "well regulated militia." Militias are state and local organizations, and the obvious intent of the writers of the Constitution was that states and localities would regulate -- write laws, regulations, conditions, for people who want to "bear arms."

  • The "right to bear arms" does not necessarily imply the right to own a private arsenal. Soldiers and police bear arms, which are owned by their organizations, and the care and use of which are carefully controlled by the organizations.

    With this in mind, local mayors and county boards of supervisors can draft local regulations for the possession, care, and use of firearms.

    These regulations might include necessary training to have unsupervised possession of any weapon, and training upon relicensing (say, every five years), which will include reflections on local experience and changes needed to meet local conditions.

    The NRA can be consultants on this, since they have a lot of knowledge about training people to use weapons safely, and ways to care for firearms so that unplanned discharges are not lethal.

    The stick: Anyone not part of the well-regulated militia (per local standards) who is a known possessor of a weapon, if involved in any disturbance, can be targeted as a clear danger to others and shot down.

    The carrot: Even your most anti-gun neighbors will have to defer to you as a vital part of the network of social agreements and accommodations that keep our communities safe. Also, as part of your training you should be provided with gun safes for your home and vehicle storage units that will protect you from theft by criminals who want guns and cannot get them legally.

    It will take years, and many court battles, to work out regulation that will pass legal tests and the most important test, that of public acceptance and compliance.

    But it is an effort worth making, as much as the effort to allow marijuana use or to allow the use of birth control.

    Teddy Knight

    Berkeley