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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

>How many more must die before we take action?

An armed gunman at Virginia Tech killed 32 people before killing himself. I witnessed the breaking news in shock that this type of terrorist act can happen again in our country. My initial thought was that there is a simple solution to the events that unfolded. I listened to the talking heads spewing their politically correct yet vague answers to questions from the press.

President Bush expressed sympathy for the families of the victims. The final straw? When asked what he was doing in response to the situation, he replied, "Laura and I are praying." Praying? Praying for what? That this is just a dream, that it actually didn't happen? Praying for the souls or the families of those already shot dead by a terrorist on our own soil?

May I make a suggestion to the president? Rather than praying, why not act to legislate strict gun control? There, I said it. Does that make me a bleeding-heart liberal who wants to take away the right to bear arms? As a matter of fact, it does. This is a very sad and oft repeated lesson. How many more mass shootings do we need before we take the logical step and legislate some form of gun control? Face it, guns don't protect us, guns kill.

Paul Mezhir
Niagara Falls

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>Stricter gun control is not the solution

Further gun restrictions won't help. The individual who intends to harm people will do it, be it with a handgun, a box-cutter or even a sharp stick. His method shouldn't be our primary concern; it's the source of the violence that should be the subject of our outrage.

Students were instructed to hide somewhere and wait. When threatened, we hide and pray someone will save us? I would rather that Americans be moved to act when someone visits undeserved violence on them. They are instead hobbled by laws that restrict only the law-abiding. Criminals pay no mind to firearm bans. The shooter killed 32 people unchallenged. He was stopped, not by the police whom we are told we should rely on to protect us, but by his own hand. Should he have decided that perhaps 50 or 100 people should die, they would have.

I don't blame the police, they did what they could. The blame for this lies squarely on the killer. Assisting him in his efforts, though unwittingly, are those who delegate their self-protection to others, and worse, deny that basic right to those who refuse to.

Mark L. Bajorek
North Tonawanda

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>Regulation is needed, prohibition is not

How many shootings does it take for the nation to inaugurate a national system to regulate the manufacture, importation, sale and distribution of handguns? Yes, the problem is national! I did not say "prohibit," I said "regulate." I am tired of the Second Amendment being distorted. The amendment does not prevent the regulation of handguns. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Bedros (Pete) Odian
Amherst

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>Stigma of mental illness is part of the problem

The majority of us cannot even begin to understand what brings some individuals to abuse others with words, rape, abuse and even murder. Our ability to meet our own challenges skews our understanding, compassion and services to those who are struggling. As a former social worker in a psychiatric facility, I saw firsthand the end result of misconceptions and stigma that caused people to not seek psychiatric care due to fear of being deemed "crazy."

As long as we as a society deny people help -- through stigma, insurance companies denying mental health coverage and warning signals being ignored due to apathy -- we will continue to see tragic results that affect us all. We need to review how our prejudices, ignorance, false securities and our attempt to save money are costing us all much more than dollars.

Laura Wright
Amherst

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>Soldiers experiencing this horror every day

The tragic killings on the campus of Virginia Tech were horrifying. President Bush took these atrocities to heart, but has he ever considered the young lives of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens who experience this kind of carnage 2 4/7 ? Imagine the mental and physical trauma that occurs there every single day of their lives, and the "surge" is putting even more people in harm's way.

Ginger B. Maiman
Buffalo

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>Investing in Bass Pro won't help our economy

Thank God for Donn Esmonde. Finally someone with a voice in this community understands how cripplingly stupid the Bass Pro deal is.

I was the economic development adviser to county executive Dennis Gorski, and I have been aghast at this deal from the outset. Here's the equation for this "economic development" retail deal: products sold come from outside of this community customers come from inside of this community = withdrawal of wealth. That's right. Our "leaders" want to invest $25 million of our money to make our community poorer. Period.

If this deal is really just another public works project for an economically hopeless region, then they should stop lying about its economic justification and call it what it is. Then let them explain how they have no plan for our economic recovery. There are so many legitimate ways to create wealth. This deal is criminal.

David Chambers
Williamsville

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>Deal trashes plans for historic district

Finally, after decades and decades, we seem to be within reach of getting our own historical district, something other cities have had for years, and what do we do? In their infinite wisdom, our community leaders and elected officials have insisted on begging and pleading with Bass Pro to take it over. "Please, Bass Pro, please, love us and open up a store here. We will pay whatever you want." If this was sex, it would be illegal.

The past three to four years have been spent developing a legitimate historical district for Buffalo and, in a flash, it is given away to Bass Pro. But not only given away, we are actually paying them to take over the prime location by the Commercial Slip. So Bass Pro will become our long-awaited historical district. Local politics as usual.

John Fagant
Lancaster

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>Region already has enough outdoor stores

Well, a reporter with courage, what a revelation. Donn Esmonde has hit the right note regarding the gift of our waterfront to Bass Pro.

Are we so desperate for just anything that we will allow our most precious resource to be given to a corporation that is investing nothing in our waterfront? Take that $25 million and start developing a tourist attraction that benefits everyone. Why are we always the last ones to catch the train? Bass Pro is everywhere and there really is no reason for those outside our area to travel to Buffalo.

Can't we do something right just once? Why are we forced to pay to bring a big-box store here when there are plenty of outdoor stores already in our area? Let's show some foresight and use that $25 million to tear down the Aud. The giveaways to those with influence have killed our area. I wonder if we will ever elect politicians who put the interests of the people first?

Allen F. Scioli
Hamburg

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>Location of store is a huge mistake

Putting a Bass Pro store at the historic western terminus of the Erie Canal is a huge mistake. Clearly, this use has no historical legitimacy. It would be the equivalent of suggesting that Lewis and Clark, in their search for a northwest passage, found Starbucks, or that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and discovered Kmart. Stop this now; it isn't too late.

Patrick McLaughlin

Tonawanda

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>Bass Pro is welcome, but not in the harbor

I recently visited Bass Pro in San Antonio. It's a big store, with lots of stuffed animals, a rather small fish tank and friendly people. It has a large asphalt parking lot (no charge) and a nice selection of reasonably priced goods. I left with the impression that Bass Pro is certainly not a destination, more like a place to check out in your spare time. Will I visit Bass Pro in Buffalo? Yes. Will I shop there frequently? No. Will I visit the store because it is located in the harbor area? No.

Donn Esmonde has stated, better than I, that Bass Pro is welcome in Buffalo, but not in or near the historic harbor area. Area leaders (I question that definition), have managed for decades to screw things up. Don't allow them to do it again. Call your elected officials and let them know that Bass Pro is welcome on the outskirts of Buffalo, but not in the harbor area. Think of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Market Street in Corning, Main Street in Saratoga, historic Baltimore or Boston's Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market area.

Victor E. Couturier
Burt

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>Obsession with the past is destroying a great city

It's the late 19th century, and Buffalo has become an industrial and commercial powerhouse. So much so that it has become the gateway to the rest of the nation, and earned its title as the Queen City of the Lakes. This title has earned it the right to demonstrate to the world what the future can become, and it does so by hosting the Pan-American Exposition. It is an exposition to show everyone what the future of this country will be. Buffalo is to play a major role in this development.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and Buffalo continually drops the ball. The waterfront, from Buffalo to Hamburg, is littered with obsolete, crumbling buildings that no one can realistically use. Get rid of them.

Parks, as nice as they are, don't pay taxes or create jobs. Unless preservationists, politicians and activists stop looking out for themselves and allow Buffalo to become the City of the Future that it once seemed destined to be, we will continue to die a slow, painful death. At one time we looked to the future; now we are mired in the past. Build what we need, be it Bass Pro, a new bridge or whatever, before it's truly too late.

Elaine Winter
West Seneca

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>Imus apologized, Sharpton never did

Don Imus paid the price for his mistake. However, watching Imus being grilled on TV by the Rev. Al Sharpton was too much to stomach. Sharpton was a participant in the Tawana Brawley hoax in 1987, which wrecked the lives of innocent New York policemen. True to character, he never apologized for his part in that fiasco. At least Imus, in spite of his indiscretion, was man enough to apologize.

Roy Mattheus
North Tonawanda

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>We need to speak up and denounce racism

Growing up in the New York area, I am very familiar with Don Imus. Anyone who didn't think the show was racist just wasn't paying attention.

We all need to open our eyes to the Imuses around us. Regardless of what MSNBC or CBS did, the real "bottom line" is that whether it is Imus, Howard Stern, some comedian or your Uncle Ernie at the family barbecue, making racial or sexist remarks isn't funny, it's not entertaining and, most importantly, it's not right.

All of us need to speak up, whether it is an entertainer, a friend, a co-worker or even a family member. The next time you hear someone making a hateful, racist or sexist remark, tell him to stop being an "Imus."

Add this one to our lexicon: An Imus: Someone who makes racial, sexist or hateful remarks that demean and degrade others while somehow thinking it is amusing, especially when no one else thinks so.

Robert Murphy
Williamsville

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>It's time to halt bigotry against the Church, too

I appreciate the disgust and disdain heaped upon TV and radio loudmouth Don Imus for his callous and idiotic racist comments. Hopefully this sorry episode will lead to greater respect and civility by all members of our society.

Will those offended by his bigotry be as vocal when America's next loudmouth mocks and ridicules the Catholic Church? Anti-Catholic rhetoric has been tolerated for decades in our culture, too. What will it take for our elite media to shut down those bigots?

James Gibbons
Buffalo

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>Say whatever you want, but expect consequences

Many people in America need a lesson on the First Amendment. It does not mean you can say whatever you want, whenever you want to say it, with no consequences. It is about the role of the government. The government did not jail Don Imus for his words, his employer chose to terminate him. This should be a lesson to all: you can say whatever you want, but you need to be prepared to deal with the fallout. The Dixie Chicks could have let Imus in on that secret.

Jessica Swiech
Buffalo

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>Media should leave Brown's son alone

I shudder to think what would have happened to me had the media been on my tail as much as they are with Mayor Byron Brown's son. He's 16 years old. He's the mayor's son and expected to be a model teen. There's a cop outside his house 24 hours per day, which means that sneaking in after curfew presents a few more problems for him than it did for me. He has to look good, be poised and speak well. Model teenagers are rare. My father never would have been re-elected.

He took his parents' SUV and hit three cars. He knew he did something wrong. He knew the press would have a field day -- although he probably didn't know how big a field day. His father and mother would not be happy. In his mind, the best answer was to get out of there as fast as possible. I might have done the same thing. Most teens don't think clearly in a crisis situation.

Let's leave the kid alone. If his father tried to cover up the story, that's a different issue. But let's get on to more important business -- like winning the Stanley Cup.

Bob Schmitt
Buffalo

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>Mayor doing a good job on issues that matter

I don't care how many cars his kid crashes, and I don't understand Citi-Stat or how it works. All I know is, I had two problems that needed attention, and Mayor Byron Brown's system worked for me. One issue was a dead tree in front of my house and the other involved property taxes. In both instances, I got prompt, courteous responses, whether I complained online or by telephone. I also received detailed follow-up letters with case numbers for reference.

In both instances, it was clear when talking to city employees that they felt accountable to the mayor for the service they provided me. I have lived in Buffalo for 60 years, and the city bureaucracy has never responded so effectively to my personal needs. I'll be voting for Brown in the next election.

Bill Diehl Jr.
Buffalo

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>Nightmare will not end until Bush leaves office

The Republican Party and its leaders and allies are basically responsible for the depressing condition of our nation -- the needless, ill-conceived invasion of Iraq; the cost of wasted human life and limb; the cost to our treasury and economy; the loss of our credibility around the world; and the lack of governmental competence or integrity. Weekly, we are confronted with either new scandals or more incompetence and dizzying denials.

What is stunning to me is the shrinking but still strong support of this regime by its remaining supporters. What am I missing? Apparently, we won't have the benefit of resignation. No matter who wins the presidency in 2008, our national nightmare will be over. Until then, progressive thinkers should hit the ground running, discussing the diplomatic recovery of our Middle East losses, domestic and environmental reform, global inclusiveness and renaissance. May the silent majority become vocal.

Leonard Gross
East Amherst

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