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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 4, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Folklife gun ban

Alan Berner / The Seattle Times

Police investigate the scene of the shooting at Seattle Center during last year’s Northwest Folklife Festival. The incident occurred just north of the International Fountain and next to the Fountain Lawn Stage.

Willing to take responsibility for violence?

Editor, The Times:

The city has an obligation to disallow guns, legal or nonlegal, at the Northwest Folklife Festival if that is what is agreed to on the lease [“Gun ban in time for Folklife?” NWSunday, May 3].

If Alan Gottlieb and his Second Amendment Foundation disagree, maybe they are willing to pay for and carry the insurance on the festival and take responsibility for any gun-related incidents that occur.

— Jim Morris, Renton

Licensed carriers need to defend themselves

Since Mayor Greg Nickels intends to make it impossible for gun-licensed individuals to attend the Folklife Festival, saying, “If it saves one life, it’s worth it,” I have a question: If someone going to or from the festival is mugged or possibly killed because they were rendered defenseless by his politically correct nonsense, will he praise them as morally superior? Pay the funeral expenses?

Let’s get real here –the streets of Seattle are not as safe as Nickels would like us to believe. Sometimes the mere presence of a gun stops an attack; it worked for me a long time ago, and no one was hurt — not even the attacker.

— Larry Clemens, Poulsbo

Ignorance about the price of lives

Mayor Greg Nickels’ spokesman, Alex Fryer, is quoted in as saying, “The cost of a lawsuit would be worth it if the new policy saves even one life.” I’m not sure what the cost of a lawsuit would be, but statements of the form “if it saves just one life, we should do X” typically display an amazing ignorance of elementary economics. Economics teaches people (outside of government, at least) that all policies and actions have benefits and costs.

There are many policies that would save lives, but would be very poor public policy. Lowering the speed limit to 5 miles per hour would save more than 100 lives per day in the United States. That does not mean it’s wise public policy. That’s because the cost of such a policy far, far exceeds the benefit. Someone driving 10 miles per day would lose about two hours per day, or one-eighth of their waking lives. The aggregate loss would be an astounding 219 billion hours per year in the U.S. — that’s about 320,000 lifetimes. So balancing the benefits and costs show a gain of 45,350 lives and a loss of 320,000.

While I don’t care too much about Folklife, I suspect the gun ban is a bad policy. The costs of defending and enforcing the policy have to be evaluated considering the likelihood that a life is saved by it — or even if it would raise the possibility of losing a life.

As I understand the history, no life has ever been lost at Folklife due to gun violence. At last year’s event, three people were injured by someone who was improperly issued a permit to carry.

I’ll leave to others the debate concerning the question of whether safety increases or decreases when law-abiding citizens are armed. But having confronted an intruder in my house, I know that many defensive uses of guns are not reported, even when the police know the circumstances — so be careful of statistics about defensive uses of guns.

— Glenn Peterson, Kenmore

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