Letters to the editor

Should gays pack heat? Plus: Feminism is dangerous to women? Baloney! Methadone won't work alone.

Published March 17, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Pink pistols

I agree 101 percent with Rauch's premise. Although I have never acted or thought of myself as a "victim" because of being gay, like many gay men, I have on more than one occasion worried for my safety. Much of that concern was put aside in November of 1996, when I walked into the Allegheny County Sheriff's office in Pittsburgh and applied for a permit to carry a firearm.

I settled on a relatively lightweight, compact, but sufficiently powerful, 9mm Smith & Wesson double action semi-automatic. Two hours and $565 or so later -- remember, I'm gay, I wanted all the accessories -- I pulled into a state-operated firing range about 40 miles outside Pittsburgh armed with my new weapon, a pile of targets, ear muffs and 400 rounds of ammo.

Over the course of the next two hours or so, several unexpected things happened. First, I discovered that far from being a bunch of "gun- crazed nuts," most firearm owners are friendly, intelligent and helpful people, from all walks of life. A young, off-duty police officer took at least an hour out of his day to work with me to be sure I knew the best way to hold the weapon, steady it, deal with the inevitable cartridge jams that happen and otherwise become comfortable with the gun as an extension of my arm and hand.

Another thing that happened that afternoon was my discovery that lifelong, athletic klutz me, was a "natural born" marksman. By the eighth round, I was consistently hitting within the bull's eye and first two rings. I know exactly what Jonathan Rauch means when he says that the ability to handle a firearm is a great self-esteem enhancer.

Since that day in 1996, my weapon has become just another item of apparel I put on when getting dressed to go out. I have only had occasion to drawn my gun in anger. That was one evening when a friend and I were accosted by five young men as we walked from our car to a popular gay nightclub. I didn't have to fire the weapon, although I would have; drawing it, cocking it and holding it in a manner which made clear that I knew how to use the gun was enough. Our assailants left very quickly while offering profuse apologies for having bothered us.

-- Michael Romanello

executive director


Where have you been? As a Christian, American, heterosexual, pro-gun male I have been waiting for the homosexual movement to wake up and remember that they have all the rights under the U.S. Constitution as everyone else. I have always said that if you would like to stop gay bashing, meet the basher with firearms!

-- Jon Taliaferro

Anyone who had paid attention to the last 100 years of psychological studies of violent behavior would know that fear does not deter violence, it feeds it. One wonders what happened to those gay bashers after they were scared away by Austin's pistol; what did their now-increased fear of gays do to their hatred when they encountered their next victim? How much more severe was that beating to cover up their fear?

-- Matthew Rowan Norwood

What a fabulous idea. The gays will be able to shoot people who are about to bash them and young gays who get depressed about living in a culture where people want to bash them will be able to shoot themselves.

Over here in Sydney, Australia, we treat our homophobia in a slightly different fashion. We have our football stars appearing in anti-gay violence commercials. We have out gay football stars. We have out gay High Court justices and politicians (conservative and liberal).We have gay parents (my mum's a lesbian, and I'm in my 30s), we have gay characters in our dramas.

Yes, we still have gay bashings, and they are responded to with increasingly severe sentences from our courts. The defense that the victim was an overt homosexual no longer flies.

While we are certainly not a perfect culture, there is a broad acceptance that we are a single culture, not with gays in one corner and straights in another. This has come about through years of inclusion and education. Sure we still have some policymakers who are living in the 1950s (our current prime minister for instance), but when the police forces have their own float in the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, you have to feel that we might be on the right track.

-- Donyale Harrison

The 17-year-old in the article would have been better protected had there been a gay and lesbian community center, sensitivity training in his schools, out teachers and other role models for the offending youth.

If we arm ourselves, we are escalating a conflict which needs diffusion. Civil disobedience is the act of not being moved by those who oppress. It has been more effective than violence. Things seem bad today, but when the gay community is armed, as the author advocates, the violence will escalate, and our neighborhoods will become centers of drive-by shootings and other far more grotesque crimes.
The gay community is not filled with pansies as you suggest, but is perhaps stronger than our oppressors will ever understand. Because our strength comes from living sanely with non-violence as our defense.

-- William Patterson

Sisterhood is powerless


I consider myself an advocate of women's rights, but an article like this makes me want to pack up and move to Pakistan where Jennifer Foote Sweeney would not be allowed to open her mouth and insert her middle name. Sweeney fails, on all levels, to substantiate her claim that feminism is "a major factor in the 'intimate' murders of women," offering only generalizations and interesting anecdotes.

Women are not served well by complaints about the progress they have made. This article seems to lament that "women now have a means of escape from violent relationships." Perhaps the author should consider a more forward-looking approach to the inequities that remain between men and women.

-- Jim Ryan

As two researchers quoted in the article, we must object to the article's central message that feminism kills women. Certainly nothing in our own work nor that of other researchers in this area supports such an absurd conclusion. Feminism doesn't kill women; men kill women. And they do so in intimate relationships at declining rates. "Feminism" is no more responsible for men killing their partners than the civil rights movement is responsible for whites killing blacks or gay advocates are responsible for gay bashing.

-- Richard Rosenfeld

University of Missouri-St. Louis

Laura Dugan

Georgia State University

As a psychologist who has specialized in working with both men and women in abusive relationships for many years, I would just like to add one thing to the piece about murder rates and abusive relationships. There are several reasons women don't leave relationships that to most of us would be obviously dangerous relationships. They are: low self-esteem as part of the emotional abuse where the man convinces her no one else would want her; low financial status that would put her and her children in the poverty level while the husband's level of income goes up and isolation as a result of the abuse, which makes it difficult of the women to have a "reality check" (this latter includes trying to receive therapy).

-- Patty Ferguson

The story was very interesting and has much merit, but in my years providing legal advice to victims of domestic violence I have often considered the question of why does a woman stay in a violent relationship and have come to a conclusion slightly different that the one in the story. Your story postulated that the women stay because they do not believe that the men who love them could kill.

In fact, I think it is just the opposite. The reason women stay is because they believe absolutely that if they leave, they will be killed. Put in that light, the decision to stay in an abusive relationship is a rational choice because the alternative is death. And for the woman with children, there are additional considerations because they do not want to put their children at risk or leave them motherless. Seen from their point of view, stalking and being beaten is a small price to pay in order to stay alive.

-- Rosemary A. Cosgrove

Beating and/or killing your spouse and family is wrong, I agree. But this article is filled with the liberal rhetoric which points the finger at men and traditionally masculine qualities as the fountainhead from which all societal evils spring. The sniveling authors and their authorities are no more than quasi-intellectual liberal bedwetting handwringers with no experience in real life. If they would watch TV, listen to contemporary music and live in the world that most of the population inhabits they would see that not all male qualities are worthless or societally imposed upon women (i.e., being tough and quiet are evil qualities, while being nurturing and caring and talking about your feelings are always positive qualities). The authors should deal with the real world, where women are mostly emotional, crying, confused wrecks who complain and talk their lives away and where men, with higher anxiety and more anger, build buildings, cure diseases and get shit done. Feminizing the country is not a solution to anything.

-- Michael Johnson

In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics study did not show the "killing" rate, but the charging rate of "murder and non-negligent homicide." The decision to charge a homicide as a crime is both a factual and political decision. The recently executed Betty Lou Beets is a perfect example.
The statistics misrepresented above reflect the now common political decisions to forgive the intentional killings of men by women. Other passages are simply self-contradictory. For example, the authors concede that male murders of intimate females have declined at the rate of 1 percent per year since 1976. They then call this a "gruesome trend," since it does not meet the expectations created by their misuse of the statistics above.

But even this "gruesome trend" is actually greatly understated, since the 1 percent decline per year is in real numbers, not a percent of population. The number of potential victims increased by about 24 percent during this period. The odds of a woman being murdered by her intimate male partner are far lower than in 1976.

-- Tim Smith

Methadone Rx


As a recovering "well-heeled" addict, it has been impossible for me to find appropriate out-patient treatment. My doctor and therapist have no knowledge of heroin detox and treatment for heroin withdrawal. When I approached city agencies for referrals they could only send me to a methadone clinic. I'm on my second day of methadone treatment now. In terms of follow-up care from a professional I am screwed. Going into the clinic is a humiliating and alienating experience. Although some argue that that's what it should be, think of how many more people could benefit from treatment if it weren't that way?

-- Name withheld at writer's request

Why make methadone more available? For once the United States' lamentable and notorious tardiness on any drug-related issues may stand it in good stead. In Australia, where I live, methadone is very easy to easy to get on -- a fact I know because I was a heroin addict for over 10 years -- and every doctor I ever went to for treatment attempted to put me on the stuff. But it doesn't actually work.

In the years I was addicted, I knew many people who tried methadone as a last resort to kick the habit, but of course none of them ever stopped using whilst on such a program, because there is no 'high' and such programs make no attempt to deal with the underlying issues as to why people use drugs and the lifestyle of addicts, which are often as seductive as the drug itself. So what one is left with are an army of people addicted to a substance that is more addictive and more debilitating than heroin, with the only people to benefit being those who supply the methadone, i.e., the chemists and drug manufacturers ... Gee that sounds familiar doesn't it?

-- Name withheld at writer's request

I worked for 15 years as a methadone counselor and program director. This is no easy solution story. Heroin use may be up as it periodically goes up then down, then back up again; however, there is no magic bullet. Methadone is one treatment that is badly needed, but it is only one approach and is no cure-all. We need to see drug addiction as a medical problem in this country and remove the criminal justice aspect from the problem. We have only succeeded in making the problem much more complex and harder to solve.

-- Bill Fulton

Sophisticated skank

Though I had to enforce a certain verbosity-tolerance reserved only for comp-lit-majors-cum-rock-critics, Gary Kamiya's review of Steely Dan's "Two Against Nature" and its accompanying background on the band might just be the best review I've ever read. As a big Dan-head, I am always amazed at how the very personal reactions we all seem to have to the music can be so consistent from person to person, and then shared with a "you thought that too?" naivete. At a recent taping of a VH1 "Storytellers," someone asked a question which began with "Probably like many people here, I always use your music to test out a new stereo ..." The audience reaction started with a knowing rumble and built to practically a standing ovation. The guy barely got to ask the question. Thanks for so adeptly capturing the collective feelings of the perhaps slightly overanalytical, but nevertheless pure rock 'n' roll set who are Steely Dan fans.

-- Eric Chaikin

"Hey Nineteen"

Steve Burgess' article on the new Steely Dan album inspired me to do something I've not done in a long time. I walked into the studio of our classic rock station and uttered the phrase, "Here's a current. Play it."

And so -- as the sun set on an unseasonably warm afternoon -- the sound of new music from Becker and Fagen once again crept out of Mobile-area radios. Damn if it didn't sound good.

Hi. We're from the '70s. This is our music. Have a nice day!

-- Kit Carson

program director,

96.1 The Rocket

Mobile, Ala.

By Salon Staff

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