Letters reacting to the search for Christoper Jordan Dorner, the disgruntled former Los Angeles Police Department officer suspected of a double homicide and the shooting three police officers, are finding their way into The Times' mailbag. Surprisingly, only one of those letters discusses the manhunt for Dorner, and the rest connect the shootings to the hot-button issue of the last few months: gun control.
Readers responded likewise immediately after 26 people were shot, including 20 children, in Newtown, Conn. in December, though in much greater volume. Reacting to those letters and the broader national discussion on firearms regulation, other readers and gun-rights activists said it was improper to politicize a tragedy, and I suspect some readers will react similarly to the two letters below.
The letters page (and, by extension, these Mailbag blog posts) and the comment boards on latimes.com do overlap in their functions as forums for readers. But the letters page, which I edit, is a curated forum, and judgments are made daily as to which content is appropriate to publish and which isn't. Given the outpouring of reaction in response to the Newtown shooting, it wasn't difficult to decide that printing letters touching on the politically volatile discussion of gun control in response to a tragedy that saddened both gun-rights advocates and gun-control proponents alike was appropriate. That initial reaction sparked a debate that continues today, and these letters are part of that ongoing national discussion.
Ron Charach, a Toronto physician who regularly sends The Times his arguments for passing stricter gun laws in the U.S., writes:
"The only thing worse than a man determined to commit 'suicide by cop' is when that man is himself a heavily armed ex-cop. The Dorner manhunt will stir up memories of the racially motivated Long-Island Railroad murderer, the response to whom brought badly needed gun laws to the U.S., which the GOP gradually dismantled.
"There are more than 60,000 troops returning to the U.S. from places like Afghanistan, all of them well-versed in firearms. Many of them will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. America needs specific firearms bans of the kind that the president and vice president are proposing, and needs them yesterday."
JoAnn Lee Frank of Clearwater, Fla., also a frequent out-of-state mailbag contributor, says that while tighter gun regulations may not prevent ramapages by ex-cops, it couldn't hurt to find out if they would:
"As the saying goes, 'You never know.' Indeed, who would have ever guessed that a disgruntled and mentally disturbed ex-LAPD cop would allegedly pull a gun on fellow officers?
"Nevertheless, police say Dorner went berserk, tragically leaving a fatal shooting spree in his wake. Whether or not stricter gun-control laws could have stopped this rampage, I implore our legislators to pass them. Fewer guns equals fewer shootings. It's a matter of common sense."