BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE: SEPTEMBER 6, 1999 ISSUE

Readers Report

Fired Up over Gun Control

I was extremely disappointed with ''Say yes to serious gun control'' (Editorials, Aug. 16). While ''Under Fire'' (Cover Story, Aug. 16) was balanced and informative, the editorial was far off the mark. Unregulated ownership of firearms in America contributes far more to our society than it costs. According to a recent study, there are 134,000 firearm-related injuries in the U.S. annually, including wounds inflicted by police officers, self-inflicted wounds, accidental shootings, and defective gun explosions, in addition to criminal assaults.

According to the Lott study, during the same period, the legal use of firearms by private citizens prevented 2.5 million crimes, such as rape, robbery, assault, and murder. Even with the ''fudge factor'' of suicides and accidental shootings factored in, firearms in the hands of U.S. citizens are 20 times more likely to prevent a serious crime than they are to cause even minor injury.

Yes, random violence is terrifying. But we should not allow a right that has protected our political process for more than two centuries to be compromised out of panic over the actions of an insane few.

Jim Gahar
Mesa, Ariz.


Your comment about most people not needing handguns flies in the face of numerous studies indicating that guns (usually handguns) are used three to five times more often in self-defense than they are in the commission of crimes. You ignore the fact that the safest places in this country tend to be those with the least amount of gun control. Vermont doesn't even require permits to carry concealed weapons, yet it's safer than places like Chicago, which ban guns outright. You also ignore the fact that only 3% or 4% of the gun-owning public will commit a criminal or irresponsible act in their lifetimes.

Your suggestion that those who oppose gun control are extremist survivalists and anarchists is insulting and in error. My Asian-born wife and I are college-educated, white-collar professionals, a fairly common profile for members of pro-gun organizations. She has voted in every election since becoming a citizen--hardly the action of an anarchist.

Your statement that police in every town support gun control is wrong. Surveys of rank-and-file police associations show substantial opposition to gun control. Politically appointed police officials tend to be out of step with the officers on the beat.

You favor registering all guns. But it's a truism that registration leads to confiscation. This century has demonstrated time and time again that the only defense against tyranny is an armed populace.

David Husar
Arlington, Va.


Confiscation is the only purpose of gun registration. Registration lists have been successful in disarming law-abiding gun owners from New York to Chicago.

While no one ''needs'' to own a handgun or an assault rifle, it is equally true that no one ''needs'' anything more than bread, water, modest clothing, and a place to live. However, in America, we pride ourselves on being a free people, having the right to purchase that which we choose to so long as we are law-abiding. No one ''needs'' to purchase an expensive sports car that can run at twice the speed limit, but in this country, you have the economic freedom to do so, even in the midst of highway fatalities.

Brian Bissett
Waterford, Conn.


Thank you for the lucid and compelling editorial. It is gratifying to see a prime element of the media speak up so forcefully for sane government action on this issue. The undue influence of the gun lobby on our legislators has to be effectively confronted and overcome with common sense. It is way past time for sanity and proper responsibility to take over in Congress and our state legislatures. Good for you, BUSINESS WEEK!

Richard D. Higgins
Menlo Park, Calif.


As I read about how the Tec-9 used at Columbine High School found its way into the hands of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, it brought back terrible memories of the 1993 law-firm massacre here in San Francisco. The killer used two DC-9s--weapons identical to the Tec-9.

If the citizens who still spout off about the constitutional right to bear such weapons had been at the scene of Columbine High or 101 California Street, I believe that they would change their point of view very quickly.

Mark Mackler
San Francisco



Maytag's Lloyd Ward: ''What a Role Model''

Your story, ''The saga of Lloyd Ward'' (Cover Story, Aug. 9), should be mandatory reading by and discussion with black youth, teachers of predominately minority students, black leaders, churches serving minority communities, and organizations serving these communities. The example of Mr. Ward should be used as a benchmark for their efforts to provide guidance to both minority youth and professionals. His statements ''Knock on the door, pull on the handle, and, if you have to, dismantle the hinge!'' and ''Just because you can't see how to get someplace doesn't mean you don't set the goal'' should be their guiding principles during the 21st century.

I concur with Mr. Ward's efforts supporting higher academic accomplishments by black high school students. Only through such efforts as his will these students be prepared for participation as entrepreneurs or professionals in our rapidly expanding economy.

Arthur D. Rogers
Alexandria, Va.


What a role model for the youth of America. As the 7th child in a family of 12 and with a father who often held three jobs to feed and clothe us, I can relate to Mr. Ward. It is rare to have an athlete who completes college while pursuing a rigorous engineering degree. Mr. Ward is indeed a model of what can be achieved with personal perseverance and help from so many others.

Joseph J. Neff
Indianapolis



With Universal Health Care, a Stronger Corporate America

In ''HMOs: A good idea that could get a lot better'' (Economic Viewpoint, Aug. 9), Laura D'Andrea Tyson recommends health-care changes that are at once irrelevant to millions of Americans and unsatisfactory to the interests of American business. No useful proposal for reforming health care--in a state or nationally--can avoid addressing the growing numbers of the uninsured as well as the underinsured.

It's no secret that business policies are contributing to this growth. Although firm by firm, financial reasons for shifting costs or cutting coverage may seem compelling, U.S. business as a whole doesn't escape paying for the health care of the employees and their families impacted by those decisions. Consequently, the lack of a universal health-care system handicaps Corporate America in the global market chase.

Dan Hodges
Chair
Health Care for All-California
Berkeley, Calif.



How Federal Fuel-Economy Standards Backfire

The real story behind ''Smoke and mirrors and mileage'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Aug. 9) is how Washington forces carmakers to engage in elaborate shell games to comply with federal corporate average-fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Supplying trucks for the U.S. Postal Service that run on taxpayer-subsidized ethanol to earn CAFE ''credits'' is only one of the distortions this misbegotten law has brought forth.

Thanks to CAFE's arbitrarily set fuel-efficiency standard, auto makers waste millions producing vehicles that consumers don't want. Cars and light trucks found on the Environmental Protection Agency's 1998 list of the nation's most fuel-efficient vehicles amounted to 0.08% and 0.03% of sales, respectively. The attempt to force-feed Americans these undersized vehicles has failed primarily because buyers know they are less safe than their larger counterparts. Death is a high price to pay for automotive political correctness.

CAFE is a splendid example of mission creep. Created to encourage energy efficiency and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, it has accomplished neither. Now touted as a means to combat global warming, CAFE is in reality the biggest threat to highway safety.

Bonner R. Cohen
Senior Fellow
Lexington Institute
Arlington, Va.



A Coffee Agreement Gives Readers a Rush

In his review of my book, Uncommon Grounds, David Leonhardt found the stories and quirky characters sufficiently interesting to paraphrase at length (''The rise and fall and rise of coffee,'' Books, Aug. 16). It is a mystery to me, then, why he objected to my coverage of the International Coffee Agreement. Not to write about the ICA would have been like writing a history of oil without discussing OPEC. With its ''tourist coffee,'' smugglers, black market, millionaire speculators, and midnight meetings, the ICA was hardly boring.

The U.S. joined the quota agreement in 1962 because of cold war fears that Latin America and Africa would go communist if we allowed the price of coffee to collapse. We sabotaged the ICA in 1989 when we no longer cared, and the price of coffee plummeted below the cost of production for the next four years, causing terrible poverty in coffee-growing countries. Perhaps Leonhardt does not find such price gyrations to be of interest, but the boom-bust cycle is a vital and disturbing part of coffee's turbulent and entertaining history.

Mark Pendergrast
Essex Junction, Vt.



Docs Won't Overdose on Off-Label Drug Use

''Take only as directed (wink)'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Aug. 16) barely mentions the reason for the common practice of off-label uses for drugs. Physicians routinely prescribe drugs for uses not approved by the Food & Drug Administration because the agency is so slow in approving new drugs and additional uses for existing drugs.

Amy Barrett expresses concern about the new freedom drugmakers have in providing medical information to physicians about off-label uses for approved drugs, as though providing physicians with clinical information from peer-reviewed journals was some kind of shady practice. Her assumption seems to be that drug-company salesmen will try to bamboozle physicians into overprescribing their drugs for unapproved uses. In reality, 73% of doctors in polls conducted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute said the FDA should not restrict information on off-label uses. And 66% said the FDA's current practice of limiting such information makes it harder to learn about beneficial new treatments.

An estimated 40% to 50% of all prescriptions written are for off-label uses. The alternative is often to leave patients with an inferior treatment or no treatment at all.

Gregory Conko
Policy Analyst
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington



''21 ideas for the 21st century'' (Cover Story, Aug. 30)

In ''21 ideas for the 21st century,'' (Cover Story, Aug. 30), BUSINESS WEEK said John C. Carson, chief technology officer of Irvine Sensors Corp., predicted that a shoebox-size artificial brain could be developed before 2005. The prediction should have been 2010. Also, the company is in Costa Mesa, Calif., not Silicon Valley.



''Battle of the batteries'' (Science & Technology, Aug. 9)

A table in ''Battle of the batteries'' (Science & Technology, Aug. 9.) misstated the number of cycles for Evercel's nickel-zinc batteries. They can be recharged 500 times, not 50.



''Brotherly love, but it will cost you'' (Up Front, July 19)

''Brotherly love, but it will cost you,'' (Up Front, July 19) incorrectly credited data on small-business taxes in various cities. The source was Vertex Inc.



''Wiring the ivory tower'' (Social Issues, Aug. 9)

The Web site for University of Maryland University College was incorrectly listed in ''Wiring the ivory tower,'' (Social Issues, Aug. 9). It should be www.umuc.edu.



''The great net stock sell-off'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Aug. 16)

''The great net stock sell-off'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Aug. 16) erred in reporting theglobe.com's second-quarter earnings report. The loss was 27 cents per share, not 54 cents. Also, theglobe.com released its results on Aug. 3, not Aug. 2.





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LETTERS:
Fired Up over Gun Control

Maytag's Lloyd Ward: ''What a Role Model''

With Universal Health Care, a Stronger Corporate America

How Federal Fuel-Economy Standards Backfire

A Coffee Agreement Gives Readers a Rush

Docs Won't Overdose on Off-Label Drug Use

CORRECTIONS & CLARIFICATIONS:
''21 ideas for the 21st century'' (Cover Story, Aug. 30)

''Battle of the batteries'' (Science & Technology, Aug. 9)

''Brotherly love, but it will cost you'' (Up Front, July 19)

''Wiring the ivory tower'' (Social Issues, Aug. 9)

''The great net stock sell-off'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Aug. 16)

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