Letters: US gun lunacy has no place in a civilised country

The following letters appear in the 27 August edition of The Independent

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Thursday 27 August 2015 20:11

The “on air” shooting of two American journalists by an allegedly disgruntled ex-colleague once again highlights the lunacy of the American insistence on the right to bear arms.

A perfunctory internet check will show that the federal legal age to consume alcohol is 21 years whereas the age to own a handgun is 18 and there is no lower age limit for owning a long gun (to quote their description of, say, an assault rifle with a 50-round magazine).

Various attempts to limit ownership of lethal weapons have been met with a resistance, presumably orchestrated by the National Rifle Association, which defies understanding in any other western country.

If the USA wishes to consider itself a civilised country it must seriously take action to control gun ownership or be forever coping with massacres in schools, colleges, workplaces and other public places, not to mention the numerous accidental deaths in the home.

Patrick Cleary
Honiton, Devon

Let us hope it does not take jihadists nipping down to their local Walmart and buying guns and ammunition there before shooting up the US Congress to bring its Representatives and Senators to their senses.

R J Farman

It started with the BBC, Sky and other news networks acting as propagandists for Isis by obediently replaying their execution videos, and in parts of the world where news is completely unregulated this had the sickening consequence of children’s games re-enacting mass decapitations.

Now the BBC and other news organisations are slavishly reporting the vile snuff videos of a twisted killer in Virginia.

This not only causes gross offence and upset to viewers but it also drives traffic to internet videos of this atrocity, which almost guarantees that we will see copycat attacks on fellow journalists.

This is a tiny incident in a faraway place which scarcely merits a footnote, yet Britain has had it plastered over every available news channel for over 24 hours.

Andrew Schofield
London SE17

EU negotiates in a smoke-filled room

It is no surprise that Catherine Day, Secretary-General of the European Commission, is too embarrassed to disclose correspondence with the tobacco industry over TTIP (“Smoke and mirrors”, 27 August).

Plain-packaging of cigarettes is working. Big Tobacco’s aim is to sell as many addictive and carcinogenic tobacco products as possible, by opposing policies that aim to protect public health.

Cigarettes are highly addictive, killing half their users. Cigarettes kill five million people a year and, unless action is taken, the World Health Organisation estimates one billion people will die this century from tobacco.

Ms Day should be ashamed.

Dr John Doherty

If ratified, TTIP would become an integral part of European Union law, which will bind each member state as well as the Union itself. Given the present secretiveness surrounding TTIP’s content, is it not essential that UK voters have a full text available before they cast their votes in the referendum on EU membership?

Professor Danny Nicol
London SE18

Women-only train carriages just an idea

I am very disappointed with The Independent’s coverage regarding Jeremy Corbyn and women-only train carriages. Corbyn merely said he would consult with women on having female-only sections to see whether people would support it, in response to the idea being mentioned to him by women who have (presumably) suffered harassment on public transport.

Yet the tone of the Independent report seems to suggest that what Corbyn was proposing was imposing de facto gender segregation on the rail network. I would have expected such a major distortion of a story from the right-wing tabloids, but I read The Independent because I trust it to provide honest and accurate reporting.

I don’t agree with the idea of women-only compartments. I do, however, agree with politicians consulting on policies before bringing them in, and with politicians who have the courage to be prepared to debate and discuss these sorts of issues.

Jo Selwood

An exam in your own language

I would take issue with Professor Alan Smithers’ comments on native speakers of foreign languages being entered for GCSE in those languages (“How to boost grades? Let Polish pupils sit Polish exams” 20 August).

First, there is nothing new in this. Fifty-five years ago, when I was in the sixth form, it was normal practice at the school for overseas pupils to be entered for GCE O-level in their native language, if there was a syllabus available. Ten years later, I was doing the same thing as director of sixth form studies in a comprehensive school.

In neither situation was the aim to boost the school’s reputation or exam results as (thank goodness) there were no such things as league tables then. The aim was solely to give the pupils recognition of their language skills in a way that would benefit them when it came to getting employment or a place at university (where a modern foreign language was usually a requirement of acceptance); this aim is equally relevant today.

Second, being a native speaker of a foreign language is not necessarily the route to high grades, as native speakers tend to use colloquialisms and sentence construction which may lose them marks in an examination.

Third, in many cases (maybe, most cases) the numbers of students involved for an individual school are likely to be so small as not to make a significant impact on the school’s league table position.

Gordon Whitehead

A tsunami of discontent

As a former Blairite I have watched with amazement the very definite left turn Labour is making. Whether or not Jeremy Corbyn actually succeeds in becoming leader it is clear that all of us need to take seriously the mood he represents.

That mood is a very widespread disillusion among party members (and I am sure many others) about how the British economy is working. While many of us no doubt accept that there had to be a period of belt-tightening after the crash of 2008, we have been deeply concerned with apparently amoral behaviour in the financial services industry.

This of course is coupled with the effective proletarianisation of much of the labour market (agency work, zero hours contracts etc). The result is more and more disaffection with the form of capitalism we have in modern Britain.

If you add to this the huge problems many young people have of affording anywhere reasonable to live you have pretty much a tsunami of discontent. Jeremy Corbyn is tapping into this in a way no other politician on the left has done or is doing. The future will be interesting.

The Rev Andrew McLuskey
Staines, Middlesex

Not enough bandwidth

Peter Cochrane (“Small Talk”, 24 August) is absolutely right. What he does not directly mention is that the failure to invest in electronic infrastructure is but another example of the unwillingness of the political/financial establishment in this country to invest in anything which cannot be guaranteed to produce a nice fat profit tomorrow, and preferably with as little effort as possible.

We deserve to go downhill and we are starting to slide.

Dudley Dean
Maresfield, East Sussex

The right kind of British hero

In jumping on the bandwagon to laud the heroes of the French Thalys train David Cameron referred to the one Brit among them as “the consultant Chris Norman”.

Had Mr Norman been a bricklayer or a plasterer I wonder whether mentioning his occupation would have had the same appeal to an ex-Etonian’s class instincts.

Adrian Marlowe
The Hague

Old slogan for today’s refugees

Further to Matthew Norman’s article (26 August), criticising the response of many of us in this country and of our government to the current refugee crisis, is this not the moment for an updated version of the Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion?

The wording “Am I not a man and a brother?” is a fitting message to remind us of our need for concern, sympathy and practical help towards those who are driven to leave their country in times of terror.

Joe Clinch
Hilary Clinch
Milton Keynes

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