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January 11, 2013 at 5:00 PM

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Readers respond to anti-gun legislation in the wake of national tragedies

Recent shootings targeted cultural symbols, other issue should be engaged

In the ongoing national discussion about gun legislation [“Time to talk about guns” page one, Jan. 9] in the wake of several mass murders in Newtown, Aurora, Arizona, Virginia and elsewhere, little attention has been paid to the symbolic significance of where these killings have occurred and what these locations suggest. The most horrific shootings have happened at malls, movie theaters, churches and schools. These sites suggest that they are not just targets because large crowds happen to gather there; crowds that are, in the mind of the shooter, mostly anonymous.

These sites are also prime symbols of an American culture geared to mainstream success in a pragmatic, competitive society (schools), cultural religiosity (churches), the excesses of consumerism (malls) and the addiction to media violence (movie theaters and video games). In short, it is a culture addicted to power in various forms, and since that is the national ethos, the response of reactionary citizens is ludicrously predictable: Give us more guns and bigger guns in more places so that we can fight power with power.

The shooters themselves both imbibe this cultural ethos and feel profoundly alienated from it. For them, one gun is not enough; they feel compelled to have more and more lethal weapons for their suicidal assaults. And what more significant way for them to “make a statement” and “become someone” in the face of their alienation from a society they both despise and mirror than to murder as many anonymous people as possible in places that are primary symbols of a culture fixated on power and material success, a “success” measured by consumerism?

In the current discussion of how to deal with these recurring tragedies, maybe the wrong issues are being discussed, and maybe some deeper issues are not being addressed.

--John F. Desmond, Walla Walla

Focus should be on the reasoning behind gun violence, not the weapons used

If we are going to go after things that kill people, instead of the reasons people kill, we have a long list of things to ban. Along with guns, we have knives, scissors, hammers, screwdrivers and on and on.

Instead of banning things that kill, we should be concentrating on the reasons for the killings and work on solving and eliminating those things.

--Ed Anderson, Kirkland

Hunting does not provide reasoning behind ownership of military assault weapons

I grew up in South Dakota where guns were popular. This was pheasant-hunting country. Many people owned shotguns to hunt pheasants. Many had their children take gun safety courses.

Of course, as every sportsman knows, the thrill of hunting is in the chase. The animal deserves a chance to escape; skill and patience are involved. And very important, the dead pheasants were taken home to eat. That is good eating.

Military assault weapons have no use in pheasant hunting unless you want to blast the pheasant to bits. So much for good eating. I will stand with the pheasant hunters. Ban military assault weapons. They are only good for killing people.

--Dean Shoemaker, Kent

Concerns should focus on mental illness, the prison system

Why all the talk about gun control when it is all but impossible to involuntarily institutionalize the type of mentally ill people who do the killing? Or when convicted killers get ridiculously light jail sentences?

You can kill with a gun, a knife, or even your bare hands, but not if you are institutionalized.

For example, the men who were convicted of killing the Tuba Man did it with their bare hands, and were let out jail in less than two years, and there was no liberal outrage.

Perhaps it’s the American Civil Liberties Union that needs to be called into account, rather than the National Rifle Association.

--Richard Askren, Seattle

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