Kevlar shouldn't be the next personal protective equipment. Senators, quit sitting on your hands, respect our doctors and nurses and pass a red-flag bill ("Shooting renews the push at Legislature for gun control," Feb. 11). Health care workers are already taking enough risk treating COVID.

Dr. Thomas Erling Kottke, St. Paul
• • •

This week's shooting in Buffalo struck close to home as I live in Rockford. What a perfect example of the absurdity of our gun laws (or lack thereof). Here we have a guy who told everybody ahead of time exactly what he was going to do and yet as a society we did nothing to stop him ("Suspect envisioned mass shooting in '18," front page, Feb. 10).

Last year an effort to enact red-flag laws was blocked by Republicans in our Legislature. The idea that we can't get proactive and take away weapons from a guy like this boggles the mind. I would suggest that the politicians who are more worried about their re-election or their fear of the National Rifle Association attend the funeral of the woman who was killed.

Paul Hedelson, Rockford
• • •

Gregory Paul Ulrich, the Buffalo shooting suspect, simply fell through the cracks of our social safety net, ignored and avoided at every level of his daily life. Medical disability problems, alcohol and drug addictions, low-income struggles, and personality issues eventually consumed him, culminating in the mass shooting this week. He seemed a broken, lonely old man at the end of his wits, willing to forgo any hope for a better future in mainstream society.

Perhaps it would be good to consider how our humanity failed him: no adequate treatment for his addictions, banned for all but dire medical emergencies from his medical clinic, ostracized from his church community, shunned by most of his neighbors and left out of any form of social service outreach. All this created a monstrous act that might be a lesson for all of us.

Were any addiction treatment programs offered? Were attempts made to adequately treat his medical problems? Did the church community attempt to console him and encourage embracing his faith for help and guidance? Two neighbors did speak well of him, but what of all the others? With so many legal altercations and signs of mental impairment, where were social services to meet his most dire needs? We need to develop awareness of such obvious signs of distress and focus adequate resources to remedy all such situations to love our neighbor as their keeper.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis
• • •

We can have micro-arguments about whether there was a mental health evaluation or whether a permit was properly issued or withheld. None of this gets to the larger point: that our society tolerates gun violence at a level exceeding that of most other Western countries combined. We cloak our tolerance in an exaggerated view of what the Second Amendment requires. We remain tolerant of gun violence in the face of overwhelming public opinion to the contrary. How many Sandy Hooks, Parklands and, yes, Buffalo incidents will it take before citizens throw out elected officials who continue to cater to the gun lobby? (Yup, Sen. Warren Limmer, I'm talking about you!)

David J. Therkelsen, Minneapolis

SLAVERY

No recognition of humanity there

I appreciated Aaliyah Hodge's excellent commentary thoroughly debunking Katherine Kersten's attack on the suggested changes to the state's social studies requirements ("Why we need new social studies standards," Opinion Exchange, Feb. 11). Well done! I quibble only with one small, but not insignificant, point. Hodge refers in passing to the infamous decision by the founding fathers to count "enslaved Black people as only partially human." When James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, et. al., determined that the southern states could inflate their population count by three-fifths of the number of their slaves, they did not intend to recognize any fraction of a Black person's humanity. These illustrious founders meant only to grant a favor to slave states, and to encourage them to ratify the new Constitution, by allowing them to increase their representation in the U.S. House (and thus in the Electoral College vote). Black slaves were not thereby granted a human being's right to, say, cast three-fifths of a vote or protect three-fifths of their backs from the lash or forbid the sale of three-fifths of their loved ones to other plantation owners. They had no more human rights than the mules they walked behind in the fields.

I mean less to criticize Hodge's argument than to reinforce it. One only has to look again at the photo of Derek Chauvin casually pressing his knee on a dying Black man's neck to realize we have not completely overcome this despicable aspect of our history. And we won't overcome it until we teach it and face it and offer due recompense for it.

David Miller, Minneapolis

IMPEACHMENT

At this rate, D.C. can become a beach

I didn't realize there was that much sand in Washington, D.C.; that is, enough for many Republican senators to bury their heads so deep that they were unable to see or hear the devastating evidence against the former president. How any sane person could watch those videos, read those tweets, plus listen to that testimony and not be moved to vote to convict is beyond belief.

Ron Bender, Richfield
• • •

While I am generally proud of the House impeachment managers' presentation of the evidence in general, more than one of them has referred to the president as "commander in chief" in a context that suggests he were the commander of the entire nation. Many radio and television journalists who should know better do the same thing.

This is not so. The Constitution says: "The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States." He or she is therefore commander only of the military, not the nation as a whole.

This is not a trivial or inconsequential error. While a soldier may have a legal obligation to obey the president's orders, no civilian does.

Paul M. Landskroener, Minneapolis

VACCINES

That wasn't so bad after all

I have finally reached the ranks of the brave. I had been avoiding even the mention of a vaccination against COVID-19. My daughters have been bugging me for weeks to give it up and go in for the shot.

Just the word "shot" sends shivers down my spine, black spots in front of my vision and lightheadedness. I have been known to pass out cold when a nurse in my doctor's office or a Target employee dressed in a white approaches me with a needle.

How did I ever survive childbirth (three times) or cancer surgery or any of the other procedures that required a needle in my arm? I would have happily made a pact with the devil to avoid any of those things, but old Satan never showed up to give me an option.

But there I sat in this gymnasium-sized room filled with other scared-looking people trying to look like, "Ho-hum — this is nothing." My daughter stood close to me in case I tried to make a break for it. I wouldn't have gotten very far since she had the car keys.

I stuck out my arm, turned my head, held my breath and pleaded to my daughter with my eyes to just get me out of there.

Suddenly the woman in white said, "There! You can go now."

What? I hadn't felt a thing.

Sheesh.

Georgene Bergstrom, Edina

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