The electronic-device usage legislation making its way through the Minnesota Legislature should be soundly rejected (“Ringing House win for cellphone ban,” March 14). Creating victimless “crimes” when no death, injury or other harm has in fact occurred seriously erodes our freedom.
Both common and statutory law already provide adequate remedies for this issue. Manslaughter is a crime at common law, and juries already employ what are known as “aggravating factors” to impose stiffer criminal penalties when such are deserved. Think the current law is too lenient? Prosecuting people who are merely engaging in behavior that’s considered risky isn’t the answer. Instead, stiffen the maximum penalties when death, injury or other harm does occur. Don’t ruin the lives of individuals who haven’t actually harmed someone else merely because they’ve engaged in an otherwise innocent activity.
Want to cut down on traffic deaths? Lower the speed limit on all Minnesota roads to 35 miles per hour. Oh, you don’t like that idea? I figured as much. But it makes as much sense as criminalizing the use of electronic devices while driving.
Living in a free society inevitably entails some level of personal risk; nothing in this life is guaranteed. Assuming personal responsibility solves a lot more problems than do government diktats. Let people know the possible penalties for actual crimes, then let them decide whether they are willing to accept the risk. Such is far preferable to life in the nanny state.
John Windsor, Apple Valley
GUNS, PHONES AND PRIORITIES
If the object doesn’t kill but the activity does, then be consistent?
I took particular note of three headlines in the March 14 issue of the Star Tribune. First, “Ringing House win for cellphone ban.” A key quote comes from the loved one of someone killed by distracted driving, who asks, “What is more important, the freedom of [this phone] or the freedom of life?” How does this differ from the question always asked in the gun debate: “What is more important, the freedom to bear arms or the freedom of your child to survive a day at school?”
On Page B5, there were two others, one above the other: “Vadnais Heights dad will contest gun charges” and “Rochester father of 3 fatally shot, phone taken.”
So apparently we have the political will to ban holding a phone in a car because there is enough evidence that even though phones don’t kill, driving while holding a phone does. Meanwhile, a man with an arsenal of weaponry unsecured in his home is contesting his charges because, well, freedom. While a man is shot on a Rochester street with a gun, so that the assailants could take his phone.
What a world we live in. How confused we are.
Nance Lee Mosquera, Minneapolis
STUDENTS AND DEMOCRACY
Admire them for their activism, but also, let them vote at age 16
With all the admiration we have shown recently for high school students’ activism, we are missing a most appropriate next step. That is their enfranchisement. We continually talk about how voting is the most important catalyst for change. It is time to lower the voting age to 16, as it is in Scotland and some other countries. Another advantage is that they are all in high school civics classes at about that age and actual voting could be a critical lesson plan. We do let them drive at 16, and an irresponsible driver can do much more damage than an irresponsible voter.
Please legislators, start this process.
Phyllis Kahn, Minneapolis
The writer is a former member of the Minnesota House and was the sponsor of such a bill.
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It’s great that students are exercising their right to assemble, if a little ironic that many of them are using that right in an attempt to curtail the rights of others. While these kids are protesting over the highly unlikely chance they will ever be involved in a school shooting, they are dying in ever-increasing numbers due to their addiction to their phones.
According to a Newsday article, texting while driving is now the No. 1 cause of teen deaths. Statistics say that 45 percent of teens admit to texting while driving, while the actual number is likely much higher. In other words, roughly half of the driving-age kids protesting then got in their vehicles and engaged in behavior that endangered themselves and everyone with and around them. More than 3,000 teens die every year from texting while driving, while all of the school shooting victims in the 21st century combined total less than 10 percent of that annual amount. In Minnesota, there have been nine victims total in mass school shootings, ever — seven in Red Lake (plus the shooter, his grandfather and his grandfather’s companion), and two in Cold Spring.
Every kid deserves to feel and be safe in school, but in saying that guns are the problem while texting their way down the road, they are being hypocrites when they engage in far more dangerous behavior on a daily basis and apparently see no problem with it. I would love to see them be as vocal about texting while driving. I would also like to see them loudly take a stand against bullying and for befriending those who may be on the fringes of their social scenes, the left-out kids that tend to become the shooters. That would make a far greater impact on making their schools safe than any gun protest ever could. If this is truly about their lives, then their anger is misplaced.
John Morgan, Burnsville
DRINKING AND DRIVING
Proposed legislation is a step forward, but it isn’t sufficient
I’m all for drivers losing their licenses after five convictions for drunken driving (“A plan to stop repeat drunk drivers,” March 16). Just think how many times they drove impaired without being caught!
But I have two additional ideas, since we often read that drivers in accidents were driving without a license:
1) That license revocation be on record with Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services, so that they can’t license a car.
2) That there is a large fine or jail for those who let a nonlicensed driver drive their car.
Mary Brady, Minneapolis
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The fifth offense?! Could someone please tell me why drunken drivers should be allowed four more attempts at killing people before having their license revoked permanently?
Jill Thomas, Plymouth
The print/online combination can be a cacophony. Be precise.
Dear Star Tribune,
I’m worried about you. I say this with love, but I have to say it. Something is wrong.
For example, in one article published online and in the print edition, Bain Capital is credited with destroying Toys ‘R’ Us (“Toys ‘R’ Us may be ready to liquidate,” March 9). This seems to be a reasonable article, yet another one, published online but not in print, says it is because the store is unexciting and hurt by Amazon, with no mention at all of the cause of its debt.
I don’t really care which is true, or both, or all of it, but reading slack, inconsistent wire stories in my hometown paper makes me sad. Please, please, Star Tribune, give me better analysis. Better stories. Crisp, excellent journalism.
Katy Miketic, Plymouth