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Letter: Guns, lost values and the tragedy of Charleston

Alana Simmons leaves a message on a board

Alana Simmons leaves a message on a board set up in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a mass shooting at the church killed nine people, on June 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

I pray for help for the people's pain at the historic Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, South Carolina. I pray especially for the families of the victims, and for the deeply wounded soul of all of the people of Charleston, and America.

I pay homage to the life of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the eight prayerful parishioners attending a Bible study and prayer meeting. They are modern-day Christian martyrs in the current movement for civil and human rights in America.

America is all too often moving in the wrong direction. Now is the time to move forward and make a difference, and not backward into pure hatred and racial bigotry. The struggle continues. Black lives matter, because every single life is made in the image of God.

The Rev. Arthur L. Mackey Jr., Roosevelt

Editor's note: The writer is the senior pastor of the Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt.

All those in favor of guns say guns don't kill people, people kill people. Why can't we get guns off the streets? Why are we waiting to do something? Our society is becoming out of control. I wonder how National Rifle Association members would feel if one of their relatives became a victim of the gun violence.

Alice McTighe, Rockville Centre

So now politicians in South Carolina are scratching their heads and bemoaning that one of their own white supremacists, a ticking time-bomb, has finally gone off.

Dylann Roof, the accused shooter, reportedly bought a powerful handgun with money he got as a birthday present. This is a good example of why we need not only background checks for all modern firearms transactions, but also even more complete background investigations performed by, say, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. That should include sales or transfers between friends and family members, something the National Rifle Association vehemently opposes.

Additionally, we need a federal licensing system -- no more state or local gun licenses with all the widely varying requirements or lack of requirements.

Roof otherwise might been able to obtain a gun illegally, but it is not as easy as people think. As President Barack Obama has often asked, when will this country join other civilized nations in having sensible gun control?

Stuart H. Cooper, Kew Gardens

Editor's note: The writer is retired from law enforcement and is a member of the National Rifle Association.

Let's get real. Guns don't turn people into mass murderers. Extreme anger and confusion are well-documented side effects of Suboxone, which is used to treat dependence on opiates. It allegedly was found in Dylann Roof's possession a few months ago. A little research reveals that many mass murders in recent years were committed by users of psychoactive drugs with similar side effects. Guns are a mere convenience for these people.

Eric Merz, Shirley

President Barack Obama did not actually use the N-word in his interview with comedian Marc Maron, but he did mention that word in his description of how far this nation's people still need to go ["Removing flag is just a start," Editorial, June 23].

The actual use of the N-word occurs when it is spoken or written in reference to a person or people, and this is not what the president did. The use of that word in reference to people is now widely deemed as so deplorable, painful and reprehensible as to invoke visceral reactions. But the president did not actually do that.

Some, including many philosophers, distinguish between the use of a word and the mention of a word, which is useful in describing this sort of situation. When comedian George Carlin listed the seven words not permitted on broadcast radio and television, as he would famously do with rapid-fire delivery, he was not using them but mentioning them.

The reaction to the mere mention of the word by a prominent speaker is but another example of Obama's point of how far we still need to go.

Philip A. Pecorino, Bayside

Editor's note: The writer is a professor of philosophy at CUNY's Queensborough Community College.

I am writing as a mother whose daughter was murdered with a gun in 2008, and I join the Charleston friends and family members in their grief.

Massacres, homicides, Fort Hood, Newtown and now Charleston are words that elicit horrific visions regarding gun violence. In fact, we are all victims -- those who died, the survivors and our nation.

Our society has suffered countless killings like the most recent one in Charleston. Guns are everywhere and easily accessible. The killings must stop.

Although 17 states have extended background-check requirements, it's not enough. At the very least, every concerned citizen should reach out to his or her legislative representative and advocate for background checks until they are instituted in all 50 states.

Lois A. Schaffer, Great Neck

Will federal gun control laws eliminate the violence committed by warped, degenerate, evil individuals? Of course not! There will always be very sick people who will obtain weapons regardless of the law.

There is a chance, however, that federal gun control legislation would reduce the number of deaths. Comprehensive background checks would lessen the number of gun owners who are threats to society.

Norman Shainmark, Wantagh

Once again we are left to mourn, ponder and search for answers as to why, in the wake of yet another senseless act of horrific violence against innocent people. No doubt this will lead to the inevitable argument about the right to bear arms.

Your June 19 editorial, "No sanctuary in God's house," explains that Roof faced charges for drugs and trespassing. He bought a gun in April with birthday money.

That, I would argue, is the most telling statement in relation to this story. It's a condemnation of our society that rather than getting an obviously troubled young man help, someone would instead help him get a handgun. Whether it was the gun used in the massacre is irrelevant.

The solution to preventing incidents like this will never be found while arguing over constitutional rights and amendments, for those arguments will never reach a resolution that suits everyone. Instead, we as a society need to focus our energies on instilling values in our children through strong families, friends and role models. Surely that is something nobody can argue against.

Ed Clampitt, Huntington


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