Why is it that every community leader who professes to be upset with the killing in our city points to firearms as the cause? The recent "no questions asked" gun turn-in program is a case in point.

Church and city leaders sanctimoniously declare that anyone who turns in a firearm will be allowed to walk away without penalty. What's never mentioned is that the miscreants most likely to use firearms in criminal activities --- legally owned or otherwise --- are the least likely to disarm themselves voluntarily. Those who have an illegal firearm have it because they want it or think they need it. They're not likely to turn it in, questions or no questions.

The last turn-in program collected a significant number of broken, rusty, and otherwise generally unusable pieces. Yet here we are, doing the same thing again. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting a different result.

And let us consider that a significant portion of the violence in our fair city is accomplished with the blade rather than the gun. Let's have a turn-in program and collect pocket and kitchen knives.

The problem, of course, is not the tool. It is the social milieu that tolerates and even teaches violence as the preferred method of conflict resolution and property acquisition. What we have is emotion in its purest form, the overwhelming of society's behavioral norms by survival instinct. In the poverty-stricken city center, drugs and gangs are the means by which survival chances are perceived to be increased. Violence stems from the wars between factions fighting for finite resources. Ignorance results from the struggle and simultaneously feeds it.

The solution is not welfare. Welfare is a soporific that can stifle initiative in the second generation: why work, when the government will provide? The solution isn't opportunity; opportunity is useless to those not equipped to recognize it. With well-meaning largesse, we have nurtured generations of disadvantaged people who are equipped neither to take advantage of opportunity nor to recognize opportunity when it appears.

The solution to the violence lies in education, a long-term, expensive (and therefore politically unpopular) process that must start with the very young and be nurtured into adulthood, using adequate facilities and qualified teachers to help combat failures of family support. It will take two generations, because it must start with a new generation in preschool and finally take hold with the children of those children.

But hey, a gun turn-in program is easier, cheaper, and faster, and has the proper politically-correct cachet. Shucks, everybody knows that the mere presence of a gun (or knife) will turn the most gentle soul into a homicidal maniac. Must be some sort of noxious outgassing from the alloys.

Funny: it doesn't happen so much in the 'burbs, though. Maybe it's not the tools after all.

Rich Young, Rochester


Regarding the proposal to re-water the old Erie canal bed in downtown Rochester:

Former City Councilmember Brian Curran says Rochester needs to create jobs, and he doesn't think re-watering the canal will do that. What does he think creates jobs: more COMIDA tax subsidies?

Re-watering the canal will increase foot traffic and tourism. It will make downtown more attractive to live in than the suburbs. Where there are people and tourism, there are jobs. Does Curran not think this would create jobs in the form of restaurants, shops, bars, and coffee houses?

The objection that the canal will freeze in the winter is beyond ridiculous. On a frozen canal in the winter there can be such activities as skating, hockey, and curling. That would attract tourists. What will filling in the old canal bed do?

Rochester needs to redefine itself if we expect to stop the freefall of our local economy. We can no longer rely on Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch and Lomb to support this city. Nor can we count on throwing our tax dollars away on things like COMIDA.

Tourism offers us a new way to bring revenue into this city, creating jobs and keeping people here. We have plenty to offer if we would just pull our heads out of our collective you-know-what.

Michael Noto. Rochester


"Dropped out? Where the students went" (May 31) reinforces what many of us know to be true: like the majority of mid-sized and large urban school districts in the US, the Rochester school district is in deep crisis. And that crisis includes super-high dropout rates and super-low graduation rates. As Aloma Cason pointed out, the two are not necessarily one and the same.

I know Ms. Cason personally, and she is among the best information analysts in the school district. Yet it is important to be careful about positive spin, critical issues, and dire situations.

Ms. Cason says that data tells us that "we need to get to these kids when they are in third, fourth, and fifth grades so they will be better prepared for ninth grade." I am certain --- and in fact, mounds of research informs us --- that we need to reach students way before third, fourth, and fifth grade, especially in basic skills development: reading, writing, math, listening, and reasoning. Research clearly indicates that by third and fourth grades, many of our students have a critical lack of those skills.

This is among the most serious issues faced by urban students, not only in Rochester, but throughout the nation. It is an issue that requires a total community response.

The onus of responsibility to produce a solution is on us. What are we waiting for?

Howard Eagle, Rochester


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