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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN

Let's find ways to curb increasing gun violence

The latest mass shooting in our country has left me saddened beyond words and the question of "why?" is on a lot of people's minds. I wish I knew but more importantly, I wish I had an answer for what we can do to prevent this sort of thing in the future. Sadly, I fear the answer is very little.

Fifty years ago, these shootings hardly ever happened, and it leaves me wondering what has changed. Oh, sure, there are the usual list of suspects: Hollywood and its love of shoot-em-up movies, the video game industry and its fondness for the same, the Internet and the ease at which lunatics can find instructions and/or validation of their twisted agendas. We are a culture that glorifies violence in every form. If you've got a problem, pick up a gun; it's the American way.

It just seems like there has to be more to the explanation than that, and thus more to the solution if one exists. Many other industrialized countries consume the same media trash that we do from Hollywood, video games and the Internet, and yet they don't seem to be as plagued by the real-world fallout that affects the United States. Why? What is it about Americans that causes us to cross the line with greater frequency, and can anything be done to change it?

The American way is killing us, my friends. I'm afraid our collective affinity for blood and death on a screen will continue to spill into reality with disturbing frequency. The good news is that change is constant, and I can only hope that my children experience as adults the kind of world I experienced as a child; one without incessant media coverage of the most recent nut with a gun and a grudge.

Peter Holdsworth

West Seneca

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Collins hiding problems rather than fixing them

All politicians say they want open government, but when elected, their policies change. County Executive Chris Collins is trying to hide his mistakes through the court system. How many cultural funds could have been saved if the money was used for public benefit instead of funding law firms? The money he used fighting the federal government about opening the Holding Center for oversight could have been used to fix the problem, not cover it up. How many lives and additional lawsuits could have been saved? Has anyone heard from Collins how much taxpayers' money he has saved by paying law firms to hide the problems, instead of fixing the problems?

Craig Bloom

Holland

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Tax New York bankers who caused this mess

Assuming the state deficit is almost $10 billion and the New York bankers and hedge fund managers who are largely responsible for this economic mess will reward themselves with bonuses of at least $25 billion, why not tax them enough to fill in the gap? Wall Street has had a banner year, in many cases rescued by public money. It doesn't matter if they've paid it back, the economy and people have still suffered because of them, and they should be accountable.

Also, the major corporations are sitting on bundles of cash without hiring. Much of this crash was because of fraudulent ratings by the major rating services and wistful greed by bankers who knew better. Why is Albany still refunding the stock exchange tax? It's another huge giveaway.

In 1973, during the first oil crisis, there was an excess profit tax placed upon the oil companies, and yet somehow they seem to have survived. This is a fix for only a few years, perhaps; the long-term structural problems still must be solved. Foremost is perhaps all of the authorities in New York that seem beholden to nobody but themselves. Another question that begs answering is why hedge fund managers pay only a capital gains tax rate of 15 percent.

I know our new governor has mentioned it, but these reasons might be the best explanation of why the public financing of campaigns is an idea now ripe, so we get politicians whose loyalty is to us, not to who wrote them the last big check. Then perhaps we can avoid some of these absurd situations and change the rest.

Alex Park

Buffalo

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Library programs promote lifelong learning in children

"Can we go see Miss Sharon?" my 3-year-old son Sammy asks. This is a question that I wish I could respond to positively. I have been attending "Story time with Miss Sharon" at Clearfield Library in Amherst with my two children for the past three years. This is a 45-minute weekly themed session for preschoolers that includes stories, songs and a craft project. This program has been a wonderful opportunity for my children to begin a lifetime of learning through books, music, the art of storytelling, crafts and socializing with other children in a structured environment. They have developed a love for books and the library.

As a lifelong learner, educator and mother, I can only help but think that this is what the founder of the public library system, Benjamin Franklin, had in mind. What a great example of a community learning environment for children. We have enjoyed the talents of Miss Sharon, a retired Buffalo teacher, and I feel very lucky that my children have had the chance to experience her creative lessons.

I am deeply saddened that Erie County has decided that this may no longer be a program worth funding. Shame on Erie County for not prioritizing children's educational programs as not only a useful way of spending our tax dollars, but necessary. Our libraries are one of many components needed in educating children and their development as lifelong learners. For now, when we are choosing our weekly library books and my son asks to attend story time, I can only respond with, "Maybe next time." Let's hope.

Melissa Moore

East Amherst

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Peace Bridge plaza will help neighborhood

What ever happened to the Peace Bridge neighborhood, especially Columbus Parkway? It used to be a safe and nice area to live in. Now there is vandalism, prostitution, arson, drug dealing and shootings occurring in this once respectable area. Extensive damage has been done to the now vacant Episcopal Church Home by gangs of hoodlums terrorizing the neighborhood. There have also been several home invasions. What are our local elected representatives doing about this crime spree?

How can obstructionists who are against the bridge plaza being built want to save such a crime-ridden neighborhood? If the plaza is built, it can rid residents of some of the bad element investing the area. There should be no doubt in the minds of the mayor and the Common Council that the plaza expansion is one of the best solutions to this growing problem. Residents who remain after the expansion will benefit from the $25 million promised by the Peace Bridge Authority to restore and beautify this once great neighborhood.

Joseph A. Paternostro

Buffalo

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