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Everybody's Column

Did deputy need to shoot mentally ill man 3 times?

Erie County Sheriff's Deputy Benjamin Pisa shooting Roger Duchnik three times at point-blank range was excessive. That's not standard procedure, and Pisa, an Iraq War veteran, wasn't taught to take three shots in the Army either. As a fellow veteran, I know from experience.

Maybe Pisa was scared or got caught up in the heat of the moment, but isn't he paid to react appropriately under stressful, dangerous situations? I understand that he is a sheriff still in training, but as a veteran, he should know better.

The Sheriff's Department knew Duchnik was mentally ill from prior encounters. The woman who filed the complaint mentioned that Duchnik was mentally ill and off his medication. Were three shots necessary? What about using pepper spray or Taser guns?

Finally, why weren't Duchnik's family members notified immediately, so they could help calm him down? They had no idea that he was outside, let alone being fatally wounded on their front lawn. I'm disgusted. Fatally shooting a mentally ill man was not the way to handle this situation. The job is to protect and serve.

Jake Gagner



It's foolish to send more soldiers to Iraq

President Bush is weighing an option of sending 20,000 more U.S. troops to "clean up" violence in Baghdad. This would supposedly be a temporary increase, though our generals have said that to properly do the job might require 18 to 24 months. Bush, realizing that the public won't support a long increase, has indicated he may approve the increase to cover a short time.

Baghdad, a megalopolis, covers close to the square mileage of Los Angeles. The troop increase would produce a very small difference per square mile. Common sense tells me that to "clean up" Baghdad would require more than 75,000 additional troops.

The Baker-Hamilton report says that the time for a military victory has passed. How foolish it would be to even temporarily have troops overconcentrated in the wrong place, when experts suggested before Iraq's invasion that North Korea's Kim Jong Il had enough missile power to attack our West Coast. If North Korea bombs us, we could launch a nuclear attack, which would spoil habitable land with radiation. A better response would be conventional bombing plus land invasion. But that would be impossible if all our fresh troops are in Iraq. It's time to bring our troops home.

Elliott Hume



Saddam won't be missed, but Brown and Ford will

There is a saying that death comes in threes, and with the recent passing of James Brown, President Gerald Ford and the execution of Saddam Hussein it seems to have played out. The differences in character and disposition of these three couldn't be more distinct -- a legendary entertainer, a former president from the Midwest and a genocidal despot. But isn't it strange how their passing came at almost the same time, within a span of only six days?

It is also worth noting the three different reactions to their passing -- a huge wave of grief and loss from those who will miss Brown, the "hardest-working man in show business," a solemn and respectful goodbye to Ford, and cheers of joy from Iraqis as finally justice was served to Saddam, who denied so much to so many.

Ray Wozniak



New rules are needed on cigarette marketing

While shopping recently, I realized there was a product that was promoted more than most -- tobacco. Many of the drugstores were literally wallpapered with tobacco advertisements.

This is so alarming to me because there is no debate that cigarettes are deadly and addictive. Do stores really need to offer discounts or buy-one-get-one-free promotions for a product that promotes cancer? Do addicted smokers really benefit from special inducements to keep puffing? What kind of message are we sending to our children when drugstores permit cigarettes to be marketed like candy while prescription drugs are kept in locked cases out of sight?

It is time to change the rules on how cigarettes are marketed in our community. Common sense would suggest that as a requirement of a retailer's license to sell tobacco products, that these products be sold in a responsible manner, just like prescription drugs -- locked behind the counter, no price discounts, no buy-one-get-one-free offers and no in-store advertisements. These same stores should also be required to display information on where addicted tobacco users can get help to quit. After all, profits realized by cigarette manufacturers in far off places should not be more important than the health of these local retailers' customers.

Terry Alford


Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition


Enforcing current laws will reduce gun crimes

In regard to the article, "Caught in the cross-fire," I think it would be great if The News did some follow-ups detailing the past criminal records of the people convicted of these murders. My guess is that most would have lengthy histories of contact with the police and past weapons violations. The News might detail the charges that were plea bargained away that let them get back on the streets.

We have plenty of gun laws on the books in New York State. What we don't have are politicians who are willing to go after the criminals and strictly enforce current laws. The politicians would rather suggest having more laws, which looks like action, but isn't. A law never kept a criminal off the street. Only the application of the law can do that.

As for the mayor's attempt at solving the problem with a buy-back program, it has never been shown to make a difference. Criminals would never sell their guns back unless they could use the money to purchase drugs or a better weapon.

Kent Kaspar

Town of Tonawanda


Call to ban animal acts is smart, long overdue

Kudos to the Animal Rights Advocates of Western New York for taking steps to protect animals from harm. ("City considers banning animal acts," Jan. 4 News.)

Besides the inherent cruelty in forcing animals to live in tiny transport trailers and being traipsed around like freight, these shows are a serious liability to the city. Many animals used in circuses and traveling shows have snapped from being beaten, whipped and abused. Elephants have gone on rampages resulting in deaths, serious injuries and substantial property damage. Tigers and bears have lashed out at circus-goers, with grim results for both animals and humans. The liability risk to Buffalo is very real.

Buffalo officials have no choice but to ban traveling shows using exotic and dangerous animals. This ordinance is both necessary and long overdue.

Jennifer O'Connor

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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