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The Globe and Mail

Dec. 17: Guns and the law, and other letters to the editor

Supporters of gun control gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, during a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and to call on President Barack Obama to pass strong gun control laws.

Charles Dharapak/AP

Guns and the law

On Dec. 6, many people in this country commemorated the deaths of 14 young women murdered in Montreal in 1989. The Harper government is being urged by its firearms advisory committee to relax gun laws here even further. This after the national gun registry has already been abolished.

I do not want Canadian parents to grieve the death of their children (Seven Adults And 20 Children Dead At Connecticut School Shooting – Dec. 14) because we believe that gun restrictions should be eased even more than they are now.

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Margaret J. McGovern, Toronto


If it's an acceptable thing for Americans to walk around with a gun, why is it, in tragedies such as this one, that the only people with guns are the killers and the police, who arrive 10 minutes too late?

Guns don't make people and communities … and kindergartens, safe. They just don't.

Jennifer Chandler, Ottawa


Time for a rethink?

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The idea of paid sick days is based upon the notion of pulling together so that nobody should be "punished" for being sick (Tuesday Protest To Be Largest Yet – Dec. 14). Teachers get sick, in no small part because of all the viruses they are exposed to in a classroom. It makes perfect sense to have a robust sick leave policy.

Sick days are fair and reasonable. Bankable sick days are deeply offensive.

Darryl Squires, Ottawa


Ontario's government has stooped to using propaganda that would have George Orwell spinning in his grave: It calls its bill undermining collective bargaining rights the "Putting Students First Act." When, in a few years, the students try to find a decent job, they will be assaulted by these totalitarian measures that "Put Workers Last."

Jim McDonald, Mississauga

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Genetic frontiers

Timothy Caulfield takes a stunningly simplex view of genomic medicine: While there is certainly room to debate the value of the investment in genomic medicine, he as much as suggests that because there is no immediately obvious medical health treatment, we should put down the genetic sequencers and go for a walk (We're Overselling The Benefits Of Personal Genomics – Dec. 14).

For those of us actually doing this work on a day-to-day basis, the way to begin to try to link genetics to medicine is to sequence the genome from as many people as possible, and to get as much clinical information as possible from each individual. Only then can we try to say how genetic variation might be associated with disease.

Carl Ernst, Canada Research Chair in Psychiatric Genetics, McGill University


Timothy Caulfied rightly suggests that "overselling the benefits of personal genomics can hurt the science, by creating unrealistic expectations, and distract us from other more effective areas of health promotion."

We should not forget the words William Osler uttered a century ago, which remain largely valid: "Ninety-nine per cent of health is common sense, a sensible regimen, a moderate manner of life. Medicine may provide the other 1 per cent, but is as likely to do harm as good, and the harm may be catastrophic, while the good is marginal. So our first task is to point out to our patients where the truth lies in this matter." Advances since Osler's time have overwhelmed the 1 per cent benefit he posited, but they remain modest in the overall context of well-being.

We will never have efficient, patient-centred health care while the cost of futile treatments are underwritten by proven, beneficial treatments.

Dennis Casaccio, Clementsport, N.S.


Where we once had hundreds of years or at least a generation or two to come to a greater understanding of the ways in which the introduction of new tools affect our lives, we now live in conditions in which scientific and technological advances occur so quickly on such a massive scale, we have little time to understand the implications of adopting a new device or system before another takes its place (Tapping Genetics Next Frontier For Marketers – Dec. 13).

Are we, as many science-fiction authors, social scientists and philosophers have warned us, fast approaching a point in our evolution where we no longer use our sticks, knives, telephones and computers in a manner that suits us, but instead just hold on for dear life and passively accept whatever consequences and behaviours our tools dictate for us?

Is the weight of control actually shifting to the other end of the continuum? It might be worthwhile to keep in mind that old joke wherein scientists had finally managed to construct the ultimate computer and eagerly asked it their first question "Is there a god?" Without a pause, the computer replied, "There is now!"

Ray Arnold, Richmond, B.C.


30 days to pay

Ontario's Auditor-General stated in his annual report that tax collectors were not acting quickly enough to pursue delinquent corporate and retail tax debts (Tax Collectors Not Aggressive Enough – Dec. 13). Given the current need to find savings in the public sector, the question he should have asked is why it is carrying out an activity that the private sector is better equipped for.

Government's role is to establish public policy, enact legislation, regulate and enforce, so why is it in the collections business? The Auditor-General need look no further than the Ministry of Labour, which outsourced the collections function in the Employment Standards program in 1998 and provided by statute that the collection fee could be added to the amount to be collected, thus making the collection process self-financing. In contrast to the average seven-month delay that the Auditor-General discovered, debtors were given 30 days to pay, and unpaid amounts were referred to the collector in the next two to three weeks. I managed the relationship with the ministry's collectors for six years and can attest to its success.

Adam Plackett, Toronto


Make it in alive

About those concerns that tolls on the Gardiner Expressway might discourage vistors: Let's see (Councillor Proposes Toronto Sell Gardiner, Erect Tolls – Dec. 14). Annual cost of tolls, let's say, $1,000. Cost of plunging through the Gardiner Expressway onto the poor wretch below who is trying to avoid driving on the Gardiner: priceless.

The chair of Toronto's public works committee would have to think really, really hard to come up with a better deterrent to visitors than life-threatening roads into the city, and sanity-threatening gridlock – should you make it in alive.

Karen Evans, Toronto

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