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Letters to the editor: Ignorance about assault rifles
Assault rifles It amazes me, the ignorance concerning so-called “assault rifles,” and, of course, this ignorance is shared by the media, too. The term “assault rifle” is a translation of the German word Sturmgewehr (literally “storm rifle,” “storm” as in “military attack”). The name was coined by Adolf Hitler as a new name for the Maschinenpistole 43, subsequently known as the Sturmgewehr 44, the firearm generally considered the first assault rifle that served to popularize the concept and form the basis for today’s modern assault rifles. In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle: It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e., a buttstock); it must be capable of selective fire; it must have an intermediate-power cartridge — more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle — and its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine rather than a feed-belt. It also should at least have a firing range of 300 meters (1,000 feet).Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles despite frequently being considered as such. For example, semiautomatic-only rifles like the AR-15 (on which the M16 rifle is based) that share parts or design characteristics with assault rifles are not assault rifles, as they are not capable of switching to automatic fire and thus are not selective-fire capable. Injustice system Two recent stories in the Tribune illustrate the inability of the appeals process to correct wrongful convictions within our criminal justice system. The Washington Post story about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasting a prosecutor for a “racially charged remark” suggests that the high court may be more concerned about political correctness than about convicting the guilty. The issue before the high court was an appeal of a man’s conviction for drug dealing who claimed he was just hitching a ride with the other men and had no way of knowing they were drug dealers. The prosecutor had the audacity to suggest he was lying because the drug dealers he was with included African-Americans and Hispanics and a bag full of money. According to the article, the appeal was rejected because of the technicality that the defense attorney had not objected to the prosecutor’s assertion at trial. Here we have an illustration of probably the biggest fallacy of the criminal appeals process: It is not concerned about whether the appellant is guilty — only whether the lower court made a technical mistake. The second illustration appeared in a brief article in the Law and Order section. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision affirming the bribery conviction of former Senate President W. D. Childers. The decision gives Childers the chance to clear his name and restore his $2,500 monthly state pension. Apparently, the high court thought Childers may have been denied his right to “cross examine a key witness.” Here again, the issue is not whether the jury got it right when it convicted Childers, but only whether correct procedures were followed. A recent book, “False Justice: Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent,” by the former attorney general of Ohio, Jim Petro, and his wife, indicates that research shows there are thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of innocent people in our prisons and jails. Florida has the dubious distinction of having more people exonerated after spending years in prison than any other state. I believe that until our legislators find the courage to stand up to the Florida Bar Association and create laws aimed at ensuring that justice is done, rather than procedural rules are followed, we will continue to have a system of injustice that too often convicts the innocent and has little concern for correcting its mistakes. Partisan preacher I read with interest the column by Errol Thompson (“What would Jesus cut?” Other Views, March 22). I found it amusing that he claims PICO United Florida is a nonpartisan organization. How can a person who claims to be a pastor say he is “nonpartisan” and be so obviously liberal, and a Democratic supporter? He should admit he is partisan or keep his GOP slams out of his editorials.