The several dozen letters published weekly in the Los Angeles Times generally reflect the mix of the several hundreds of opinions sent to us by our readers. That does not mean they represent broader public opinion, since they are written by a set of people who both read the Los Angeles Times and care enough about an issue to take the time to write a letter that has a greater chance of not being published than actually running.
With that in mind, it is still noteworthy that the level of outrage expressed by readers since the shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 has not diminished. As of this writing, nearly 300 letters on the shooting and related topics — gun control, school safety and more — have been submitted this week, a number far greater than at similar points after past mass shootings. Two weeks after the October massacre in Las Vegas, for example, the weekly tally of letters on that topic had dipped to 102.
Does this mean the national conversation on guns will fail to fade as it did after past tragedies? Time will tell, but for now, it's safe to say that the efforts of the Florida students to hold the public's attention on this issue are working — at least with Times letter writers.
Nancy Kaufman of Newport Beach proposes a trade-off for gun owners:
My first suggestion would be to ban guns. My second would be to raise the purchase age to 50. Since those proposals won't fly, how about this?
Why not require any civilian who owns a gun to have liability insurance, as is required for car ownership? While insurance can't cover intentional wrongful acts, it can cover gun negligence.
The insurance requirement would have the effect of putting the determination of who can possess a gun in the hands of insurance companies. They have considerable expertise in assessing potential liability and denying coverage for excessive risk. Anyone who fails to qualify for insurance could have their guns confiscated.
Brian Dzyak of Northridge notes that nonlethal options are available for recreational shooters:
The only solution that neither side mentions very often is adhering to the actual intent of the 2nd Amendment and limiting access to arms only to people who are members of a "well regulated militia."
As for people who enjoy recreational shooting, only Olympic-level mental gymnastics would allow anyone to use the 2nd Amendment to justify owning guns for entertainment. Nerf makes a number of products that are designed for fun instead of killing.
San Pedro resident Wayne Rinder targets ammunition:
A lot of gun laws are being proposed that might not prevent mass shootings. Much of what's being considered just gives the appearance of "doing something."
The only way to stop mass shootings is to eliminate the capability to fire mass quantities of bullets in a short period of time. To do this we have to reduce the number of rounds that can be loaded into a gun and eliminate clip loading entirely.
This would not stop all shootings or killings, but it would make it more difficult to kill large numbers of people with guns. The National Rifle Assn. needs to get on board with this reform.
Katie Gallagher of Chicago thinks the public needs to be shocked:
Why not cover gun violence as you would a foreign conflict — in graphic detail, sometimes with full-color photos of the injuries? This is morbid, but in the past it has been effective in exposing the public to the horrors it should understand to be made fully informed.
Think of how the public responded to horrifying images during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Photos of 14-year-old Emmett Till's mutilated body were published in 1955 with his mother's blessing. Similarly, images from the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam shocked the American public.
After a mass shooting, perhaps members of the media should contact a victim's family and request permission to publish images of the crime and its aftermath. It is easier to ignore atrocities and allow them to continue when you do not know the details of the impact.