Register weapons as we do vehicles
I agree with a Jan. 6 letter writer who wants liability insurance for guns and ammunition, as vehicles are required to have. I would go one step further, because last year more than 10,728 people were killed by guns in America, not counting injuries. As with vehicles, licensing, transfer and registration fees should be added. This will help in weapon tracking.
Reasonable semiautomatic weapon-control laws would save many lives. It may take a generation or more, but would be worth it. These guns enable people to kill people. The killings must be reduced.
GARY THOMPSON, ST. PAUL
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Group's rating isn't to be taken seriously
There is a level of absurdity not previously seen in the crazy circus of school-reform initiatives. Performing at center ring is the national education reform group StudentsFirst ("State gets 'D' for its school reforms," Jan. 7). Its campaign to reform public education and its benchmarks for grading 50 states come off more as a spoof than as any promise of reform, with high marks awarded to underachieving Florida and Louisiana.
And here's the tired signature piece from StudentsFirst: a punitive downgrade for any state not honoring school vouchers, the twenty-year-old bad idea that sucks money from underprivileged public schoolchildren so that a handful of well-qualified underprivileged children can attend private schools. In other words, a few students are placed first (like the group's optimistic name), but most students are further underfunded.
Suffice it to say that if you got a horrible grade from StudentsFirst, you must be doing something right.
STEVE WATSON, MINNEAPOLIS
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They wane when music wanes in the schools
The core reason both Minnesota's major orchestras are experiencing loss is that Minnesota's K-12 schools have ceased to develop a music audience base. Federal and state funding cuts to K-12 education have drastically reduced or have eliminated classes such as band and orchestra.
This is not the fault of school or orchestra management. The Minnesota business community needs to establish an ongoing, aggressive attitude, lobbying federal and state governments to appropriately fund and sustain K-12 instrumental-music education.
If either orchestra survives this next year, may I suggest that the new contract include the price of two or three K-12 music-education lobbyists.
VICCI JOHNSON, ROSEVILLE
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We won't forget the old error so easily
Ben Golnik's Jan. 5 counterpoint to Steven Schier's excellent Dec. 30 commentary "New era or new error" begins by lauding state Republican efforts "that turned a $6 billion state budget deficit into a $1 billion surplus." In actuality, the perceived change in state economic fortunes happened in spite of GOP "efforts."
Those efforts included passing revenue-raising responsibility to local governments -- resulting in ballooning property taxes, withholding $2.4 billion in education funding, and reflexively refusing federal money. By the way, federal dollars that Minnesota did receive significantly contributed to the so-called "surplus.
But, the whole surplus claim is a canard in any case, because it doesn't take into consideration the money owed to schools or the projected $1.1 billion deficit for the coming biennium.
This novel approach to bookkeeping should come as no surprise to anyone given the state GOP's chronic party finance soap opera -- let's see ... are they current on their rent yet?
While Democratic one-party rule will, no doubt, be short-term, one thing is sure: Given the extremists and ideologues that currently dominate the state GOP, one-party GOP rule has been convincingly proven to be something Minnesotans should avoid at all costs.
GENE CASE, ANDOVER
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May others carry his focus onward
It was with a profound sense of shock and loss that I heard of the death of Star Tribune reporter Larry Oakes ("Veteran journalist told tales from up north," Jan. 6). He was the right person in journalism to tell the story of "The Lost Youth of Leech Lake," and it was with this in mind that I had called Larry recently to suggest to him that there was a parallel story that required the attention of investigative journalism: "The lost youths of urban violence." I mentioned an unusual study, "Understanding Youth Violence in North Minneapolis," and a quotation from a young man: "... as a young black African American man you're a target since day one. There's already a prison for us."
Larry left a message saying that this was no longer his beat. Perhaps that is his legacy -- to encourage his fellow reporters to take on the study of urban gang violence and the "code of silence," with the honesty and compassion that Oakes brought to his work.
ESTHER WATTENBERG, MINNEAPOLIS
The writer is a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota.
Fans, it's your turn: Make league squirm
In light of the recent resolution of the NHL contract disputes, I would urge all hockey fans to boycott the league for at least the opening week in this abridged season. We, the fans, need to send a strong message to the NHL that we will not tolerate a lockout every eight years. The NHL recorded record profits after the 2004-05 lockout because fans were eager to see hockey again; in effect, the league was rewarded for the season-long lockout. The hard truth is hockey fans are not appreciated by the NHL. They are expecting us to forgive and forget.
Please, find something else to do on game night.
DAVID ADAM, PLYMOUTH