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LETTERS: Real tragedy is how our nation ignores gun violence

Sgt. Ryan Fryman, who was on the scene of the shooting on Sunday night, hugs a fellow officer during a vigil for Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officer Charleston Hartfield Friday at Police Memorial Park on in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hartfield, who was off (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

For a time, Virginia Tech was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Then the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last year. Now Las Vegas has that dubious distinction.

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When I began my career in state law and then federal law enforcement in the 1970s, the official weapon for police was the revolver. Chicago Police administrators felt that officers did not need firepower beyond that reliable weapon, even as semi-automatic pistols became the choice on the streets by thugs and drug dealers. For a time in the 1980s, Chicago officers still carried their official revolver but also a second gun — a pistol with clips that allowed more shots and was easily reloaded. Finally, after a few years, the CPD administration relented and made semi-automatic pistols the official weapon.

But it didn’t stop there. The easy availability of high-capacity assault weapons and rifles by the gun industry escalated the lethal potential. They are the featured guns in our ever more violent entertainment. They can easily be modified to fully automatic weapons. Originally, SWAT teams were trained to use these weapons in rare instances. Now, many police jurisdictions have these high-capacity, semi-automatics in each squad car. Every gun of whatever caliber used in a massacre, a domestic shooting, a suicide, an accident or another crime starts out as a legal gun.

Like the renegade cigarette industry, the gun industry and the NRA suggest that guns really are not the most important factor in gun mayhem.

The real tragedy is not the shooting but the fact that our country does nothing about gun control except to offer condolences. President Donald Trump, in his comments on the Las Vegas massacre, never used the phrase “gun violence.” Obviously he did not want to offend the NRA or his gun-rights supporters.

My brother Michael was killed in 1972 in a robbery aboard a CTA L as he was coming home from Loyola University. While focusing now on semi-automatic rifles and other military guns, we should keep in mind that most suicides, homicides, accidental shootings and other crimes are committed with revolvers and pistols. Congress at this point seems prepared to make it easier to legally own a silencer by eliminating the need for a background check. Removing that ban has been opposed by the Illinois Chiefs of Police Association. Unfortunately, legalizing gun silencers might be the only thing that this Congress and president accomplish before Thanksgiving.

Chester J. Kulis, Mount Prospect

Great tax

I think the Editorial Board of the Sun-Times was mistaken with their call in Friday’s newspaper to repeal Cook County’s pop tax (“Can the soda tax, Toni Preckwinkle“). This isn’t a bad tax. This is a great tax. One of the best taxes ever invented. Why? Because it can be completely avoided! How many other taxes exist that if you don’t want to pay it, you don’t? You need a place to live, so you have to pay property taxes. You need clothes and gasoline, so you have to pay sales taxes. Nobody needs soda, the junkiest of all junk foods, so people who are paying the tax are willfully doing

Don Anderson, Oak Park

Common sense

Americans want some common sense gun laws. Here are some ideas:

1. Don’t sell military or law enforcement grade weapons to civilians. Hunters don’t need automatic weapons, large capacity magazines, or armor piercing bullets to kill a deer or duck. And for the noise? Amazon sells sound-canceling headphones at reasonable prices. No need for hunters to use silencers.

2. Do background checks before anyone buys a gun. Maintain a universal database of people who shouldn’t own a gun (domestic abuser, those with mental illness, etc.). I never complained that my employer was infringing on my rights when they insisted on a background check. By not having universal background checks, a gun owner is infringing on my right not to be killed in a senseless act of Second Amendment terrorism.

3. Help diagnose — and then treat — those with mental illness.

4. Treat guns like cars. Require training, take a test to get a license, show proof of mental stability, renew the training periodically, require registration, require transfer of registration if you sell it, charge a fee for registration.

Americans are tired of seeing innocent people killed.

Allison Longenbaugh, Naperville

Two things wrong

From a Canadian perspective, there are two things wrong with your gun laws. First, there is no nationwide registry. Secondly, in respect to municipal and state registration, there should be an automatic computer-generated alert for anyone who already has or is attempting to purchase a fourth firearm.

That Stephen Paddock, who legally owned 43 guns, wasn’t automatically investigated speaks to both a culture and legal system that is at a minimum complicit as an enabler.

What happened in Las Vegas could have never happened in Canada because it is very difficult to purchase a single firearm, much less 43.

Robert Lewis, Montreal