Letters to the Editor
UP IN ARMS
I know, I know, “Guns don’t kill people,” but isn’t it obvious, just listening to the local news, that all too often gun owners’ kids do? This inescapable byproduct of a society in which 50 percent of homes contain guns was not even mentioned in your profile of NRA president Sandra Froman (“Top Gun,” March/April).
It is not Froman’s guns that will kill innocent victims. She is a responsible gun owner. Unfortunately, her rhetoric, politics and legal practices protect all the irresponsible gun owners who will not abide simple safety devices or practices. The reality she fails to acknowledge is that no matter how many gun safety courses the NRA sponsors, a large number of gun-owning families will never practice what the NRA may preach.
Laissez-faire gun laws, like the ones Froman’s NRA lobby protects and promotes, sacrifice the lives of innocent children and adults so that gun owners will not, in any way, be inconvenienced or held accountable. Shame on her.
Robert H. Wilson, ’74
Corrales, New Mexico
The world needs more balanced, levelheaded reporting like this. You have dealt with a controversial subject fairly and taken a very unusual spin—this is what good journalism is about. How dreary and predictable it would have been to read the tired story turning Sandra Froman into the heartless gun lover I’m sure many people imagine her to be. Instead, we get the picture of the entire woman from a new perspective. Good stuff!
As long as Stanford continues to defy the forces of political correctness and tries to take an intelligent position on these types of issues, I will continue to read it. If it ever descends to the sad standards of most current media, it will go directly from my mailbox into the nearest trash bin.
Geoff Biddulph, ’85
The debate about whether Americans are safe packing a pistol is in itself an indicator of a failing society. While we somehow figure that we are better than the rest of the world, in my lifetime war has continued to rear its ugly head, our foreign policy has progressively alienated us from the rest of the world, we keep dragging our feet about helping the environment to recover and, all the while, those who deserve the most help here at home fall further into the ravages of poverty and the resultant social malaise. Add to this the incredible lack of ethics in government and the tangential similarity of corporate America, it’s no wonder some folks strive to attain security like Sandra Froman.
Such slim measures, no matter the caliber, are no match for the dilemmas they hope to overcome. I would point out visionary William McDonough’s claim that when systems are broken, fixing them isn’t possible. The only cure is reinventing systems that are sustainable and nondestructive to the planet and its dwellers. With a more transformative attitude, the gun issue, for example, would likely be settled in less rancorous and more civil ways than the present polarized stalemate.
If and when Froman “shoots the guts out” of someone, I wonder if she has any idea of the impact of such actions. Many vets like me have some good reasons to avoid solving problems with guns. In the wake of such horror, one realizes there’s no going back. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand the folly of blunt and savage methods that, in the history of mankind, have never really accomplished what they set out to do.
William Grant Macdonald, ’64
Sandra Froman doesn’t appear to have learned the appropriate lesson from the break-in attempt at her house. She didn’t need a gun to frighten off the potential intruder. As for her contention that the press is responsible for guns getting a bad name because “ninety-nine-plus percent of the time guns are shown being used for bad purposes by bad people,” press reports about the vice president’s recent hunting misadventure must have come as a relief to Froman. It was a good-news story: Cheney didn’t actually kill his friend with his careless use of a gun.
Fowler W. “Skip” Martin, ’65
Cheers and congratulations on your courage in publishing the sympathetic article on the NRA that is so much at variance with the left/liberal biases of the Stanford faculty. I hope that the faculty’s likely moral indignation will not endanger your job. Although I am not a gun owner, my father used to hunt pheasants and ducks in his younger days, and I am sympathetic with the vast majority of gun owners who use their guns responsibly and safely.
Warren Roberts, ’48, MA ’52
Oh, swell. Now we have the far-right, lunatic gun lobby linked to Stanford. What kind of revelation will you bring us next month? I can hardly wait.
Dan Cook, ’69
San Mateo, California
Froman’s plan to stay safe by being armed reminded me of advice given to me by an inmate at San Quentin Prison. “If I come into your house at night, you will be asleep or half-asleep. You will be naked or in pajamas, and barefoot. With your glasses off. I will be wide-awake, armed and fully dressed, with my shoes on. You will be no match for me while you fumble for your gun.”
Thomas P. Lowry, ’54, MD ’57
Your March/April cover, which implicitly promised answers to such questions as whether guns reduce crime or keep gun toters safe, led us instead to “Top Gun,” merely a puff piece on the NRA’s current president. There is considerable scholarship on these important questions, largely ignored by the article’s author, such as the astounding differences in the murder rate in the United States compared with countries with strong gun controls. Your poor readers are left to ponder the real purpose of the piece on Froman. Could it be that you are pandering to the NRA’s constituency? Please don’t embarrass us with such drivel. I have come to expect more of Stanford’s alumni organ, such as the piece on global warming that prompted a lively exchange of letters in the current issue. We want and need more of that.
Mary K. McLeod, MS ’70
White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Thank you for your evenhanded approach to the gun issue. I am puzzled that some legal scholars and academics still do not understand the point of the Second Amendment. All they have to do is to research the words of the founding fathers as to the intent, and that record is readily available. For instance:
John Adams: “Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion . . . in private self-defense.”
Thomas Jefferson: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
Patrick Henry: “Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
There are others on record who voiced the same convictions. It is well to note that the Second Amendment is one of 10 enumerated in the Bill of Rights. An examination of each of these amendments reveals that they all apply to individual rights of every citizen, not to federal or state or group rights.
Regarding Professor Weisberg’s statement that a militia member was “an important civic figure, sort of a model citizen,” this does not square with George Mason, who was there, when he says, “Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except for a few public officers.”
The fact that there are predators out there, and the police cannot or will not protect us from them all, should prompt us to take advantage of the right expressed in the Second Amendment, if not for ourselves, then for our families.
Robert Griffin, ’63
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on the current NRA president. I have always maintained that women should be the biggest supporters of the easy accessibility of firearms. For thousands of years brute strength ruled the world. What average woman could expect to stand up to a 250-pound male intent on mayhem? The old adage holds true: “God created man (woman), but Colonel Colt made them equal.”
Clarence L. Wilson II
Wilmington, North Carolina
As someone who has worked for many years to try to reduce gun violence, I am writing about a serious problem that was not adequately covered in the article. The demand for guns in the United States has been declining for many years. Furthermore, the market is saturated as the firearm does not wear out like cars or washing machines. So what is the gun industry to do? First, it can design new and often more lethal products, which it has done as there are no federal standards for what types of guns can be manufactured. Second, it can ignore the leakage of guns from its legitimate market into the illegal market and into the hands of criminal and the underaged, a leakage which, of course, increases sales.
Guns often move from the legal to the illegal market through a well-developed technique called “straw purchasing,” wherein criminal entrepreneurs (gun traffickers) utilize stand-ins who can pass federal background checks to buy guns from local dealers in bulk and then sell them on the street locally and out of state. By some estimates, nearly 25 percent of all handguns initially sold legitimately end up being used in crime. Yet these guns seem to come from a small number of bad-apple gun dealers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) released gun trace data a few years ago that showed 57 percent of guns used in crimes and traced came from just 1 percent of gun dealers. Why haven’t the gun industry and the NRA worked with law enforcement and the ATF to shut down these dealers?
Instead, the NRA has worked relentlessly to shut down the information on this problem. During the Clinton years, ATF released wonderfully informative Youth Gun Crime reports that defined the sources of guns in many cities and made explicit the dramatic effect of gun trafficking. The NRA used its money and intimidating clout to force the so-called Tiahrt Amendments to ATF appropriations through the U.S. Congress. As a result ATF is no longer allowed to spend any money to disseminate such critical gun trace information to the public and now a new bill, HR 5005, would make such information unavailable to law enforcement except on a narrow case-by-case basis. Law enforcement could not look at trends or state-to-state trafficking of guns.
I hope that as a mediator, Froman would realize that there is a middle ground. Closing down bad-apple gun dealers and irresponsible gun makers would not mean getting rid of all guns. It would just make it harder for criminals and juveniles to get guns, and make our communities far safer.
Barbara Canfield Hohlt, ’65
New York, New York
What a surprise and pleasure to read the article on Sandra Froman and guns in America. The surprise is to find a rather well-balanced review of a contentious topic in a Stanford publication. For years I have viewed Stanford as being biased to the left, having a “politically correct” view on practically all topics. It is a pleasure to find a broader view on guns emanating from Stanford.
Charles H. Markham, ’47, MD ’51
Santa Barbara, California
We are appalled that STANFORD, representing Stanford University, would print a one-sided story, effectively endorsing the NRA and its alumna president. Balanced reporting calls for a companion account setting forth the frightening damage wrought by the NRA.
John David Baer, ’43, MS ’47
Norma C. Baer, ’54
Los Altos, California
The cover story reminds me of when a Stanford pal said, “What we need is a polar opposite to the NRA, a counterweight.” So he and I founded BAGEM, the Ban All Guns Electoral Movement. So far movement is minimal, membership is low and funds are lower. But your article might get us going again. Anyone interested?
John Caple, ’59
San Rafael, California
You’ve been had. Sandra Froman can now use the prestige of Stanford University—cover story no less, with eight-page spread—to support the National Rifle Association. Pretty clever and you fell for it. As the article points out, she’s no dummy. Or was there a deal? Is the NRA making a contribution to your publication you couldn’t resist?
Barbara Roche, ’56
The Second Amendment is not one of the “worst drafted”; it is, on the contrary, one of the best drafted. The modern problem of comprehension is the widespread misapprehension of our language, which, with respect to the Amendment, shows itself in not understanding what a dependent clause or subordinate clause is. The main statement is, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” What precedes it is the dependent clause.
J. Robert Israel
Santa Cruz, California
Your article leaves out crucial information about the risks of having a gun in the home. My sister was in the same situation as Froman—a man was trying to get into her house late at night. She says if she had a gun she would have shot him. It was her husband who had lost his keys and was hoping not to wake her. Careful research shows a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to kill or injure a household member or friend than an intruder.
At the federal level and in most states, the NRA manages to keep the lucrative illegal gun market open to felons and teenagers by blocking one-handgun-a-month legislation. It aids gun trafficking by blocking background checks at gun shows. Neither your misleading article nor Froman is a credit to Stanford University.
I am a life member of the NRA. I am also a lifelong critic of its policies with respect to gun control. First, my credentials for criticism. I was a competitive rifle and pistol marksman for half a century. I have participated in state rifle and pistol tournaments in three states and have been a competitor in the national matches on three occasions.
The NRA has done a great national service in the areas of teaching gun safety and conservation of wildlife. Its fault is that it has only one view of gun control. That view is—NEVER! The NRA persists in opposing all regulations of firearms, without regard to the legitimate interests of competition shooters and hunters. If the proposal would in any respect make it inconvenient to own or use a firearm, the NRA declares never and cites the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
On one occasion at the national matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, at the competitors meeting, a director of the NRA delivered the usual tirade against all forms of gun control. I received permission to speak and advised the group that the public was not concerned with guns in the hands of marksmen and hunters; the problem was criminal possession. I declared that it was high time that the NRA came to recognize the distinction and concentrate on the law enforcement aspect and abandon its never position as being counterproductive to the real interests of gun-owning sportsmen.
I was howled down. On the following morning on the firing line in the champion competition, a number of competitors vented their favorite expletives on me for being critical of the NRA. In the ensuing years, it is clear the NRA hasn’t learned much about public relations. Perhaps Froman can be a voice of moderation.
Jerome F. Downs, ’47, JD ’49
San Francisco, California
Please let me suggest a recent and particularly well-researched book on the subject of the Second Amendment: More Guns, Less Crime, by John R. Lott Jr. (U. of Chicago Press, 1998), a former Hoover Institution fellow. He sets forth research data showing that concealed-carry laws reduce crime significantly, and that accidental injuries associated with gun possession are minuscule compared with a clear and significant reduction in crime. The book is supported by a good bibliography and index, and superb charts and documentation, with a readable text. The author concludes that no other crime-reducing government policy has the cost-benefit ratio of concealed-handgun laws.
Lionel Cross, MA ’66
I was shocked at the lack of judgment shown in featuring the NRA president. I was also a victim of a burglary but I came home when the burglar was rummaging through my possessions. I often think about whether having a gun in my home then would have helped me. I have concluded that either the burglar would have found my gun first or I would never have been able to access it. Sandra Froman’s response would probably be that one should always carry a concealed gun, but the odds are 18-1 that the gun would be used against a relative or acquaintance rather than against an intruder.
Your article leaves out crucial information about the risks of having a gun in the home. It also fails to point out that at the federal level and in most states the NRA manages to promote the illegal gun market for felons and minors by opposing one-handgun-a-month legislation. The NRA aids gun trafficking by blocking background checks at gun shows.
Your article also fails to discuss with any objectivity the impact of under-regulated gun ownership in America on crime rates and on death and injury by firearms. Our rates are staggering compared to all other nations. As a Stanford alumna, I am proud neither of your misleading article nor of Sandra Froman.
Sharon Woodnutt Anduri, ’68
Sandra Froman may be more likable and less controversial than Charlton Heston, but she spouts the same tired rhetoric the NRA has used for decades. Sadly, her organization’s primary mission is to block the efforts of responsible Americans to limit sales at gun shows, make trigger locks mandatory and control the spread of semiautomatic weapons whose main purpose is to kill people. On the rare occasion that one of these weapons is outlawed, the NRA responds by providing instructions to manufacturers on how they can circumvent the law.
Froman’s claim that gun control disarms law-abiding citizens is specious. How do reasonable initiatives like safety locks, background checks and bans on cop-killer bullets disarm noncriminal gun owners? And if, as Froman suggests, some of her NRA brethren use guns similar to Uzis to shoot deer, perhaps they should be disarmed.
Froman may believe a gun makes her safe in her home, but several studies have shown the opposite to be true. The overwhelming majority of gun-related incidents in the home are not cases of homeowners shooting intruders, but murders of family members, suicides and accidental killings. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded: “Rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.” Similar findings have been published by the American Journal of Public Health, World Health Organization, University of Washington and University of Chicago, as well as the FBI, which in one year reported only 176 justifiable handgun homicides in the U.S., compared to 1,134 accidental killings.
Incomprehensibly, the article awards the NRA “the high ground.” While a sympathetic administration and post 9-11 paranoia may have temporarily given the gun lobby a political advantage, to assert any moral or intellectual superiority is absurd. It would be more accurate to label the gun culture in America a national disgrace. More than 30,000 people are killed by guns in this country each year, compared to fewer than 100 in England, Japan and Canada.
It is the easy access to guns in the United States that leads to tragedies like Columbine and results in 6-year-olds killing their classmates. It is the easy access to guns that can turn a simple argument into a fatality, an innocent noise in the night into the accidental killing of a child, a bout with depression into an impulsive suicide, and the paranoia of a disturbed youth into mass murder.
Gary Cavalli, ’71
Los Altos, California
I much appreciated Kevin Cool’s thought-provoking article. It takes on a highly contentious issue in fairly balanced terms, while also presenting its subject as a believable human being, if not always politically credible. And his column at the front of the magazine (“Not Exactly Trigger Happy,” First Impressions), brings us even closer to this “bubbling soup” of complex arguments.
I must say, though, that at least two moments struck me askance. How influential is the NRA? In 2000, “aggressive NRA opposition in Tennessee and Arkansas” defeated Al Gore, giving George Bush the presidency. Leaving aside that win’s dubious nature, it seems a hollow achievement, given the president’s current standing. As I write this, the Google prompt bush approval rating low turns up well over 11 million hits: 36 percent and falling. Surely this wave of disapproval includes some NRA members?
A photo closing the article shows Froman, “avid big-game hunter,” posing proudly in the NRA’s National Firearms Museum, framed by a pair of immense white tusks. Museum staff e-mailed me that while this gallery is devoted to Teddy Roosevelt, the tusks were “harvested about 40 years ago by an NRA member.” But the person who answered my phone call there immediately said the animal was killed in Africa 30 years ago. The Endangered Species Act listed African elephants in 1973.
Professor of English
Being a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, I was concerned to find both intolerance and aggressive control of lifestyle while attending Stanford, and horrified to find it deepen with the years. You are showing courage and liberalism in publishing this article. In a real sense, the Second Amendment has become a litmus test to separate those of us who support our Natural Rights Republic from those who would like to see a return to a more primitive form of government. The fact that you wrote and published this article gives me hope that there still exists a liberal subcommunity within the larger Stanford community.
Joseph Iaquinto, MS ’71
I greatly enjoyed the cover story about Sandra Froman and appreciated your unbiased and fair treatment of a subject matter that is likely disagreeable to many of your readers. Whatever one’s personal stance, one has to respect the determination and excellence that Froman has demonstrated in her career. She is a great example of the abilities of a Stanford graduate and an excellent role model.
There are many of us who lead professional lives yet still enjoy firearms and hunting. We are about as far from the stereotyped gun owner as one can be. I would like to point out another Stanford alumnus who should be recognized: Jeff Cooper, ’41. Col. Cooper graduated from Stanford before serving in the Marine Corps in World War II. Based upon his experiences, he created what is known as “the modern technique” of the handgun and founded the International Practical Shooting Confederation and the American Pistol Institute at Gunsite, Ariz., the pre-eminent firearm training facility in the world. While one may disagree with the politics, one has to respect the impact our fellow Stanford graduates have made regarding the safe and proper use and ownership of firearms.
H. Todhunter Windsor, ’81
The following letters responding to the profile of Sandra Froman did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.
[The gun control issue] actually appears clear and simple: Washington, D.C., banned handguns in 1976, and five years later the homicide rate in that city rose 200 percent! Let's quit dancing . . . criminals like unarmed citizens. How smart do you have to be?
Edward Tolle, MS ’56, MBA ’64
I applaud your article. Stanford never seems to shy away from controversial subjects.
When I was a young boy in Ohio, my uncle took me rabbit hunting with a single-shot bolt-action 22. I was particularly good at tin cans. However, I can’t imagine much sport in using a semiautomatic rifle for small game, even for deer or elk. Which leads me to my main problem with the NRA, and now their president, Sandra Froman. I didn’t find her argument convincing to include citizen ownership of the so-called assault weapons, such as semiautomatic and automatic weapons. Certainly the home-defending gun owner does not need such weapons, nor does the true sportsman.
As a boy I also enjoyed playing cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. I know the feeling of power with a weapon in one’s hand. As an adult I also owned three guns and know the satisfaction of having a fine tool like a rifle, shotgun or handgun. However, when I married and had children, I disposed of all three guns through a licensed gun dealer, not convinced that gun locks or gun safes would prevent their access by those untrained in gun safety. No mention in the article was made of the children killed annually when playing with a parent’s gun.
I feel the NRA carries far too much political weight, and affects politics beyond its agenda. The article cited that had Al Gore been NRA friendly, he would have carried Arkansas and Tennessee. This single-minded, single-issue position of the NRA caused election of a president that has severely damaged the international reputation of the United States and reinforced the gun-toting, reckless cowboy image of Americans worldwide. This president ignores world law and denies prisoners due process in the courts. The NRA can claim partial responsibility for this.
I take issue that the Brady Bill with background checks and waiting periods (i.e. gun control) “disarms law-abiding citizens and creates zones of vulnerability that criminals can exploit.” I am not against citizens owning guns for target shooting, hunting or collecting. However, I can’t see how a sensible, educated person would object to a background check and to a few days’ wait. Admittedly, this would not keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
I can’t help wonder what would have happened if Froman had her trusty handgun when the intruder was scratching at her front door, or if this had happened at her more remote home in Arizona. Would she have shot him through the door? The thought of sitting down with Froman at a restaurant knowing she has a handgun in her purse scares me. I would not feel any safer in her presence if a robber came into the place and commenced a holdup— perhaps less safe, knowing I could be in the middle of a shootout.
William S. Luring, MBA ’62
Saxtons River, Vermont
That an obviously intelligent woman feels that her position on gun ownership (which I have no problem with) justifies her support of the NRA with regard to national politics deeply bothers me. Here is an organization that worked diligently to elect George Bush and all that he represents, which goes far beyond simple gun issues. (Stem cells, anyone?)
Then there is her intruder scare. How can she not realize that the event turned out for the best simply by not having a confrontation? Turning on the lights, making noise—all classic home defense actions—produced the ideal result. No one got hurt. If she were an NRA member back then, and drew her weapon, there is no telling how much and whose blood might have flowed.
I am myself a gun owner, but never an NRA member. I have often discussed home defense issues with NRA “gun enthusiasts.” My point is that the sleepy and confused homeowner is very much at a disadvantage if he reaches for a weapon in the middle of the night. Yes, I understand and agree that it is comforting to have a weapon, but one should realize that the best outcome is always when the actual use of the gun is avoided.
Let’s have reasonable laws on gun ownership. Sport and defensive weapons should be legal, but arguing constitutional law in order to allow military-style weapons is to use laws illogically. And, to put that issue above all others to elect far right-wing politicians is surely not what a smart Stanford woman should be proud of.
John Austin, MS ’68
Oregon City, Oregon
Kudos on your even-handed portrayal of Froman and the NRA. Events associated with Hurricane Katrina have brought issues of gun ownership closer to many on the Gulf Coast. We watched, as social order in New Orleans became extremely tenuous following impairment of the existing security umbrella, with public safety apparently reverting to individual responsibility. The city’s response included an effort to confiscate homeowners’ weapons, resulting in the federal case NRA v. Mayor Ray Nagin. In post-Katrina Houston, many have perceived a sharply escalating rate of violent crime and have renewed their acquaintance with the local gun shop and shooting range. The frontier may have closed more than a century ago, but its heritage continues.
Many readers no doubt cringed at Froman’s comment that closed the article, but it simply reflects the reality of her being fully prepared to defend herself. It was refreshingly honest, and no, I’m not an NRA member.
Charles Cofer, ’72, MS ’72
If Stanford were out on the newsstands competing with the likes of Time and the Enquirer, I might understand your decision to publish the glorification of Froman and make it your cover story. But I like to think of the magazine published by my alma mater as an academic one. And when I see important questions raised on the cover of the magazine, I expect some thoughtful and carefully researched responses inside. I do not object to the publication of the story as a biographical sketch, as disgusted as I may be by Sandra Froman’s rhetoric and machoism. But I hope that in the future your editors demonstrate a little more sensitivity for your readership in planning your cover stories. Some of us (actually, many of us) who graduated from Stanford have a worldview that does not accept violence or “shooting their guts out” as a solution to the problems we face.
Anne Nicol Thomas, ’64, PhD ’73
Fort Bragg, California
Stanford deserves a 21-gun salute for featuring alumna and NRA president Sandy Froman, who shoots straight from the hip. Her carefully reasoned legal arguments and exemplary gun-toting lifestyle drop firearms opponents dead in their tracks. Further, she illustrates for our edification how to avoid being outgunned by criminals unaware that she’s packing heat.
Incidentally, this article brought to mind the gangster movie in which James Cagney held a group of thugs at bay with a large pistol while uttering a single word: “Behave!”
Bob Gilman, ’55, MA ’64, PhD ’69
San Francisco, California
According to Froman, she is the president of the oldest and largest civil rights organization in America. As she sees it, her job is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, especially its Second Amendment. Most of us have taken an oath either in the military or other government service to uphold the Constitution, but many socialist-oriented representatives including some presidents, senators, congressmen, and Supreme Court justices only give it lip service.
When socialists such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Ho and others consolidated control over their minions, they denied them any rights and fully disarmed them. The socialists in America are trying to do the same thing here. I am surprised Stanford is helping them by trying to confuse the obvious meaning of the Second Amendment.
Sandra Froman and her predecessor, Charlton Heston, are rare American patriots. They have endured extensive personal abuse and threats to their welfare to keep the American Republic intact. They both deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor for their valor in fighting America’s enemies in the vicious front lines at Washington, D.C.
After consulting the Internet for information about the article’s author, editor Kevin Cool, and some of the cited works by Weisberg and Levinson, I was appalled at the superficiality of the same old feeble arguments. Almost daily, we get antigun diatribes from senators Feinstein, Boxer, Murray, Schumer, Lieberman, Wyden, Kennedy et. al. Let’s get down to the facts.
The preamble to the Constitution reads: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.” Now just how do you suppose the framers of the Constitution expected to achieve all of these fine goals in a world dominated by religious and secular tyrants, dictators, monarchs, czars, emperors, generals, shamans and assorted witch doctors when our government was to be run by consensus?
Consensus rule is essentially mob rule. Since mobs are always on the verge of anarchy, consensus rule or democracy normally work only occasionally. Unless the people can be induced to cooperate with each other of their own volition, a republic or a democracy cannot survive. Thus democracy is a tenuous form of government that cannot long exist without homogeneity and the protection of individual rights.
In 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence and 12 years before the Constitution was promulgated, Scotsman Adam Smith published his book On the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In that book he described the role of multiple independent “invisible hands” voluntarily, with no central direction, providing all the goods and services needed to keep a nation functioning. Some constitutional means was needed to encourage these “invisible hands” to conduct their businesses without central planning. The answer was inducement. The Bill of Rights was incorporated in the Constitution to guarantee the people certain rights and freedoms. The result was a flourishing of American commerce and industry without equal in history.
Among the freedoms of the American people was the right to peaceably assemble wherever and whenever they chose. This First Amendment guaranteed mobility. A second freedom was “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” This Second Amendment guaranteed respect for the individual from government officials and their bureaucracy. We are now engaged in a great ideological battle testing whether these inducements that assure American democracy can long endure.
Anti-gunners have been repeatedly frustrated in their attempts to disarm Americans. Their position is that all gun owners are essentially criminals and should be treated as such. Their two-pronged attack is to nullify the Second Amendment and to drive gun manufacturers out of business. Most have taken the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, but lying is always part of the socialist modus operandi.
After 215 years, the rest of the world has failed to destroy the American Republic, often called a democracy, but they won’t stop trying because the longer our form of government remains intact, the more likely their preferred socialist forms of government will be forced to respect the rights of their minions. Officials of socialist states, all essentially totalitarian in nature, are forced to destroy America to survive. Americans need to understand that gun control and reduced mobility are not in our best interest. A brilliant and dedicated person like “Top Gun” Sandra Froman deserves appointment to the next open seat of the Supreme Court so that she can directly preserve, protect and defend our Constitution.
LaMar L. Briner, ’51
Elon, North Carolina
Sloganeering and leathery Charlton capers in the ethers of the fallen children of Columbine. His legacy and your passion for an instrument of rational terror, Sandra Froman, relent. Do your part to prevent the 21st century becoming another century of death.
Henry C. Stockman III, ’75
San Francisco, California
“The use of words is to express ideas. Perspicuity, therefore, requires not only that the ideas should be distinctly formed, but that they should be expressed by words distinctly and exclusively appropriate to them. . . . ” So wrote James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 37, one of a series of brilliant treatises Madison and the Founding Fathers wrote to explain the true intent and meaning of the Constitution. Madison intended that the words and terms used in the Constitution convey the same meaning to all who read them. He further intended that the same words and terms convey the same meaning wherever they appear.
Let us look at the term “the people” as used in the Constitution with a view to determine if the same definition can be applied to its use throughout. Let us also agree that any study of the Constitution as originally adopted must include the first 10 amendments thereto, as without the so-called Bill of Rights there would have been no ratification.
The first use of “the people” is in the opening sentence of the preamble. “We, the people” obviously conveys the idea that we, the individual citizens of the United States, do ordain and establish the terms and limits of the government under which we choose to live.
The second appearance of the phrase is in Article One, Section 2, which provides for the members of the House of Representatives to be chosen by “the people” of the several states. Here, again, ”the people” clearly means the individual citizen and not some body of the government. This is substantiated in Article One, Section 3, wherein the method of choice of members of the Senate is “by the legislature” of the various states. (The method of electing the Senate was not changed until the 17th Amendment where, again, “the people” replaces the government (“legislature”) body.)
We next encounter “the people” in the Bill of Rights. Clearly, all 10 deal with individual rights, although “the people” is used in only five of them. The First Amendment assures “the people” the right of peaceful assembly; the Second the right to keep and bear arms; and the Fourth security against unreasonable search and seizure. The Ninth provides that the enumeration of certain rights shall not be construed to deny those not so enumerated and in Article Ten it is clearly stated that those powers not specifically delegated to the federal government are reserved to “the States respectively or to the people.” Here, clearly, “the people” as individual citizens are defined separately from the (state) governments.
It is obvious from the foregoing that in the establishment of our government the Founding Fathers intended that certain rights (including the right to keep and bear arms) be reserved to “the people” as individual citizens. It was true 200 years ago. It is equally true today.
Yet there are those who would argue that in the Second Amendment, and only in the Second Amendment, “the people” means the state governments and their militia and not the individual citizen. To argue thusly is specious and disingenuous.
Richard F. Dewey, ’56
You’ll probably get a great number of comments on your March/April cover question, “Do gun laws reduce crime?” By coincidence, William Douglas, MD, recently writing in his “Daily Dose” column, answers to the affirmative, suggesting that having a firearm should be considered as a health issue.
If one is to believe Dr. Douglas, having a gun is healthy. He backs up this contention with a number of facts such as in states which have right-to-carry laws, the violent crime and murder rates are significantly less than in states which have stringent gun laws. In particular, I understand that Washington, D.C., which has one of the most stringent antigun laws, is the “murder capital” of the United States. A similar dangerous situation exists in New York.
Also, I just read in another source that since the handgun ban was enacted in Britain (1997), violent crime there is up nearly 90 percent. Similarly for Australia with a near-60 percent increase in violent crime.
This brings up the very curious question of why some people want guns banned. Certainly, it is not to give criminals more of a free rein, but evidently that’s what is happening. Probably antigun laws are emotionally driven rather than being logical, truly proving the law of unintended consequences.
I hesitate to be sarcastic, but if gun laws work, why doesn’t some legal entity pass gun-control laws for Iraq?
Bud Wood, ’50
I was attempting to understand the rationale behind Ms. Froman’s position and was on the point of granting some validity to her arguments until I got to the photo of her posing smugly under a rhinoceros head and framed by elephant tusks. She states, “I decided when I started hunting that I was going to eat what I shot.” Does that mean she eats rhinos and elephants? Obviously she is not a subsistence hunter, so she must kill animals for fun. It is one thing to shoot native ungulates when their numbers are out of control because humans have eliminated their predators, quite another to travel to foreign lands or to canned hunts, to kill endangered species. Even if she didn’t kill that rhinoceros or elephant, she clearly finds it acceptable. Big-game hunting for sport is cowardly, an atavistic behavior that is grotesque in this age of disappearing wildlife.
By the way, her story about the intruder, who left after the light and noise started, showed that she didn’t need a gun, not that she did.
Diane Shepherd, ’72
Below [are excerpts from] a letter written in 1906 by my grandfather, Dr. Alfred Baker Spalding, Class of 1896, then a young Stanford professor of medicine and an obstetrician in San Francisco. It vividly describes San Francisco on April 18 and 19, 1906 (“All, All Is Destruction,” March/April).
“It seemed somewhat as if a gigantic bull dog had hold of the earth and shook it in a series of spasmodic, terrific, growling insistent shakes. It seemed as if whoever did the shaking was mad because the entire earth would not give way, and each shake of the almost continuous series seemed harder than the one previous. Just when we had despaired of ever living, the thing stopped with a jerk, and we could hear the distant rumbling of things falling.
“[A]t first everything looked natural, but soon we began seeing that many buildings were partly destroyed, mostly around the roof, but some with large segments fallen out. Then we saw flames start in half a dozen widely separated spots, and hurriedly dressed. When we arrived on the street it was a peculiar sight. Women in their nightgowns hanging on to strange men. One man we noticed in only an undershirt. He soon realized his predicament, and tried to pull the shirt down, but he had used the wrong kind of soap.
“We went on the roof and could see a dozen quite large fires, but did not think anything of it, for the fire department is one of the finest in the world. Then came the news that the water pipes were crippled, and that the fire chief who lived in our neighborhood had been killed by a falling wall. You can imagine the sensation. I had to visit some patients, and Mame remained at home storing water, as the worst we expected was a water famine.
“The fire by this time was quite fierce and spreading. The fire started mostly on Mission street, the block just south of Market. In walking around, one was struck more by the havoc of the earthquake than by the fire. Van Ness Ave was rolled in waves and large cracks crossed it. St. Luke’s church, a large stone affair, was flat on the ground. All the brick and wood buildings were partly destroyed, but all the first class steel frame buildings and wooden buildings were only slightly affected. None of the 10- or 15-story buildings were damaged. But the Lord was perfectly fair and square, and destroyed about an equal number of French restaurants and churches.
“The city was placed under martial law at four o’clock to protect property, and many are the tales of vigilance work performed. One man caught stealing rings from a woman’s fingers was hung on the spot, and ten men were shot while trying to get into Shreve’s. One man was shot for refusing to carry a hose, and many well-known business men were treated roughly while trying to get at their own vaults. Bread soon brought 25 cents a loaf, and some as high as a dollar a loaf. There was such a panic to buy food that the stores had to close their doors, and let the crowds in by twos and threes.
“There were all sorts of good and bad acts committed. While our man carried us at regular rates, another man carted a family to the Presidio, and then demanded $25. The man offered his last $5, but the drayman refused to give up the stuff. Soldiers told him to take the $5 and unload. He again refused. They then gave him three minutes to “get busy,” and one held a watch. At the end of the time, the man still refused, and they ran him through with bayonets. All along the streets you see dead bodies placarded ‘shot for stealing.’
“Hill after hill is nothing but ruins, and as far as one could see, there was nothing but smoldering foundations, and massive piles of bricks and stones. The cobble stones in the streets were burned to brittle chips, and the car tracks twisted out of shape. An old man asked me for the direction. He said he had lived in San Francisco for thirty years, and could not locate himself. After we had figured out our positions, we found we were within a block of his home.”
Cynthia Karen Tilden
With regard to the statue of Agassiz, there is another version of the joke. Dr. Jordan said, “I have always admired Agassiz in the abstract and now I admire him in the concrete.”
Terry Walton, ’57
Merrick, New York
I am pleased to read that Professor William Dement is once again teaching Sleep and Dreams (“Wake-up Call,” Red All Over, March/April). Although I did not take the course, my contact with Professor Dement was memorable.
In 1970 I was president of the Law School Mock Trial Organization. We staged a mock trial based on They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, a motion picture about Depression-era dance marathons. In the movie, the winning couple finds that their prizes are a mirage, and the depressed and hopeless female dancer asks her partner to shoot her. He complies and in the mock trial he is charged with murder. His defense is that he was so sleep-deprived he could not have formed the requisite intent to commit the crime.
The defense expert witness at the trial was Dement, who told us that he had always been fascinated with the dance marathons. He, of course, was a spellbinding witness. When the student/lawyer asked him to describe the status of his then-infant science, Professor Dement leaned forward and with a sly grin, and to the great delight of the audience, responded, “We are on the verge of amazing breakthroughs.”
To this day, some 36 years later, when I am asked about the progress of a project, I often lean forward and with a sly grin respond, “We are on the verge of amazing breakthroughs.” Thank you, Professor Dement.
Al Pick, JD ’70
BING BACK THEN
The article about Bing Nursery School (“The Play’s the Thing,” January/February) brought back vague memories of when I attended the old Stanford Nursery School, but I definitely remember moving into the new Bing Nursery School building in 1966. I looked forward to going to the game rooms with the graduate student researchers and answering their questions. The highlight of the visit was that at the end, you got a large colored tablet that when put into a glass of water dissolved into a fizzy drink. Years later, my initial faculty adviser in human biology was Edith Dowley, who instantly remembered me from my nursery school days. In 1980 I attended President Donald Kennedy’s inauguration. The gentleman standing next to President Kennedy in the receiving line introduced himself as Peter Bing. “Are you related to the Bing Nursery School?” I asked. When he replied in the affirmative, I introduced myself as “Bing Class of ’66!”
David Miura, ’83
I, too, believed that the feminist revolution was irreversible, as Marjorie Perloff suggests (“What longtime belief have you changed your mind about?” Just One Question, January/February). After reading her harsh judgment of today’s stay-at-home mothers, however, I am less certain. I appreciate the efforts of those whose struggles have enabled me to have choices, but not the pressure they now place on me to make the same choices they made.
If I choose not to be the teacher I have been duly educated to be or the lawyer I am training to be, I clearly will be judged by women like Perloff for my choice. If I choose to be what she calls a soccer mom, to devote my life to children and our community, should I really be “ashamed”?
Soccer mom should not be a derogatory term, as Perloff suggests, but rather a term for the ever-busier modern woman who invests her skills, learning and time in her children and her community, especially given the many other choices she undoubtedly had. As long as women continue to be judged for the choices they make, the feminist revolution will have failed. Women will be truly liberated not when every woman is in the workplace or in the home, but when every woman can make a choice for herself, free from the judgment of others.
Megan M. Roberts, ’00, MA ’01
Los Angeles, California
A CUE FROM CHINA
The last sentence in the first paragraph of Joel McCormick’s article (“It’s Their Call,” January/February) on the implementation of “deliberative polling” in parts of China states: “Institutions including the Communist party are looking for ways to gain legitimacy with constituencies growing more impatient with corruption and decisions in which they have little or no say.”
Our federal government, in particular, needs to initiate programs designed to restore public confidence that has recently been so seriously eroded. It is no wonder that voter participation in elections declines.
Don Huffman, ’50
My wife and I were recently in the Bay Area completing a nine-month, 24,000- mile, 34-state, seven-province RV trip around the United States and Canada. During one of our stops southeast of San Diego, our mail caught up with us and I picked up the January/February issue. Upon reaching “You Gotta Have Guts” (Being There), we decided to see if the restaurant had any space open for the March 6 “Head to Tail” dinner. On our first call, we found the dinner sold out, but [later] a table for two had opened up.
We found the restaurant, Incanto, and met the owner, Mark Pastore, ’89, who was personally greeting and visiting with all the diners throughout the evening. The dinner was billed as a five-course gourmet affair, but the chef added a sixth. What a delightful bonus! Another pleasant discovery was their list of fine Italian wines to complement each course. My wife and I would highly recommend this small neighborhood experience to others and plan to return. Thank you to Summer Batte and Stanford for another informative article introducing us to a most memorable meal. I didn’t know Stanford produced such fine culinary professionals.
Jeffrey Booren, ’67
BOOKS AND BIAS
I read the review of A War Like No Other in Shelf Life (Showcase, January/February) with amusement, to wit: “ . . . and before ‘quagmire’ was used to describe either Vietnam or Iraq . . . there was the great Greek civil war.” First, the word quagmire and the comparison of Vietnam to Iraq is only used by liberal-biased Bush-bashers, not by everybody; second, what on earth have Vietnam or Iraq got to do with the Peloponnesian War?
Former senator Patrick Moynihan reportedly responded to somebody admonishing him to spend less of the taxpayer’s money: “It’s no use scolding us. We can’t help ourselves.” Similarly, it looks like your writers and editors simply cannot help themselves—a break from their relentless liberal bias and/or Bush-bashing proclivities (subtle and not-so-subtle) would be appreciated.
E. Zeiger, PhD ’78
Corona del Mar, California
I am writing as a proud alumnus of Stanford and a proud faculty member at Georgia Tech. The article “Turning the Tide” (November/December) describes an Indonesian student who wanted to study industrial engineering at Georgia Tech. The student was urged “to raise his sights and think about Stanford.” Raise his sights? The engineering programs at both Georgia Tech and Stanford are typically considered among the top five nationally. In fact, Georgia Tech’s industrial engineering program has been ranked No. 1 in the nation every year for more than a decade. In the future, please refrain from publishing disparaging comments about peer institutions.
Mark Prausnitz, ’88
Address letters to:
Letters to the Editor
Arrillaga Alumni Center
326 Galvez Street
Stanford, CA 94305-6105
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Data is from the past two weeks.