Letters to the Editor

From the week of April 18, 2002

Robert P. Firriolo
North Massapequa, New York

Scary tactics: David Holthouse deserves a journalism award for his article exposing the dark underbelly of Project Exile. As the co-founder of the Project Exile Condemnation Coalition, I am well-versed in this dangerous program, and Mr. Holthouse has left few stones unturned.

In the case of the woman convicted of the victimless crime of possessing a substance the government says you cannot put into your own body, anyone who believes she should be sent to prison for four years for merely posing with a gun is not a very balanced person. If a crime has no victim, there should never be an arrest, let alone a conviction followed by a firearms prohibition: Basic constitutional rights are too important to allow them to be stolen in the name of allegedly fighting crime.

One would think the NRA, of all groups, would know this. Instead, dozens of non-NRA gun-rights groups have had to form an alliance to help expose what the NRA will never tell you about this program. We have been collecting data to prove the points Mr. Holthouse made, in hopes of further educating otherwise intelligent gun owners, constitutionalists and other liberty advocates on all sides of the political spectrum, and Mr. Holthouse's studious, eloquent, balanced, fair and hard-hitting article is so effective he's just saved us untold time and energy.

Alcohol prohibition, like drug prohibition, was not only ineffective at ending access to the banned substance, but it increased crime in our society and expanded police powers outside constitutional bright lines. If someone slapped with a felony for alcohol possession during Prohibition had been "caught" with a firearm, would you also think several years in federal prison was a good idea? Of course not. But somehow, because the War on Some Drugs is involved and because governments and media conglomerates have done such a thorough job of demonizing this handful of banned substances, a startling number of people are willing to crucify nonviolent people, using guns as the convenient cross of choice.

It's difficult to find a sane, lawful person among us who opposes stiff prison sentences for truly violent criminals. Someone who harms another in violation of the law should stay in the pokey for quite some time. But someone who never harmed a flea is not the same as someone who stabbed a woman after raping her. Smoking marijuana recreationally just does not equate with assault with a deadly weapon. In a sane America, treating a writer of bad checks as harshly as a three-time armed robber should be struck down as unconstitutional via the Eighth Amendment's "cruel and unusual punishments" clause. Project Gulag is not sane. It's scary.

Thank you, Westword, for publishing this urgent and eye-opening article.

Angel Shamaya
Flagstaff, Arizona

Power rangers: Wasting law enforcement and incarceration resources on the majority of Exile victims takes away from government's ability to protect society from real threats -- especially when untold thousands of known dangerous felons have received early paroles to clear up jail space. It makes absolutely no sense to play "catch and release" with true predators so that room can be made to lock up the people Holthouse describes.

By denying Second Amendment rights to people with "bad judgment," lead Exile prosecutor James Allison sets an impossible and arbitrary standard that no one could hope to live up to -- including his ultimate boss, George W. Bush, who admits to substance (alcohol) abuse well into his adult life. That this abuse was "legal" is more a matter of time and place than a moral distinction, as evidenced by how such conduct was treated during our country's previous disastrous experience with Prohibition. But at least that was enacted under authority of the Constitution, which is supposed to be the "supreme law of the land." A main reason for its drafting was to itemize those specific powers granted to the federal government -- and to put a big "off limits" sign reserving anything not so enumerated to the states and to the people. Nowhere is that government delegated authority to "enforce existing gun laws," and we must not forget that Waco and Ruby Ridge began as exercises in their agents doing just that.

Would you enter into a contract where the other parties could alter terms and conditions whenever it suited their purposes -- and whether or not you agreed to the changes? Of course not. To allow them to usurp unauthorized powers, even when their motives are purportedly for a greater good, sets dangerous and intolerable precedents. Succeeding governments may not be as kindly disposed toward protecting freedom -- and they won't need to be, because they will have inherited a power monopoly allowing them to ignore restraints and invent new authority at will.

Kudos to Holthouse.

David Codrea

Hold Everything!

Put some restraints on therapy: In Julie Jargon's "Playtime Is Over," in the March 14 issue, we learn that Denver psychologist Dr. John Dicke is under orders not only to refrain from using "therapeutic dildos" when treating children, but also to stop using restraint as therapy. I was disappointed that Westword had so little to say about Dicke's "holding therapy" -- another wholly unethical and shocking practice.

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