Straightening Out Shooting

I read with interest “Straight Shooting” [Summer 2013]. Sadly one of Duke’s own was an early victim of gun violence in a school. Horace P. (“Buck”) Morgan ’70 dedicated his life to helping troubled youth, but lost his life in the 1990s in Georgia when he was shot by a student at school. Buck was one of the best people to ever graduate from Duke.

Art McTighe ’70, Hightstown, New Jersey


I worked eighteen years between 1952 and 1972 at an oil refinery on the Dutch island of Aruba. There, the only people allowed to have firearms were members of the police, the small Dutch marine detachment, and the Aruba Gun Club. The latter organization met on Saturday mornings and used shotguns to shoot at clay pigeons. The rest of the time, the shotguns were in police custody, with police recruits and low seniority policemen cleaning and maintaining them.

Aruba and Baytown, Texas, where my family and I have lived since 1974, have about the same population—low 70,000s. Baytown averages about a dozen murders per year, mostly with guns. Aruba, when I lived there, had about one murder every two years— usually by knife or strangulation. On a small island (Aruba is sixty-eight square miles, only the southern half populated), gun-control law is easier to enforce than in a typical U.S. city.

I do not claim to have a perfect solution to the problem of gun violence. I merely offer the foregoing as interesting background material.

Malcolm Murray B.S.M.E. ’52, Baytown, Texas


Excellent article. Looking forward to seeing Cook’s next efforts. Most Americans, despite empirical evidence to the contrary, have the idea that they will be able to use a gun to defend themselves and their families. Compare our rate of gun violence to European countries, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia—we look insane. Australia is an excellent example of a country that took radical steps to control gun violence. Australian citizens simply grew weary of mass shootings, and they had a group of courageous politicians that enabled a process of getting rid of guns. Now their gun violence is, like the
other countries mentioned, numerically tiny. Canada has many guns but does not have a culture of using guns on people. America is unique in that its citizens defend guns and seem to have tireless tolerance of mass killings, even when they involve children.

August Williams [, commenting online]


“Straight Shooting” offered some interesting opinions on gun violence. These opinions were clearly at odds with much of the scholarly data dealing with the subject. For example, the findings of Dr. John R. Lott, which indicate the relationship between crime reduction and increased gun ownership, were declared to be simply “dismaying.” The conclusion by Dr. Cook that “more guns equals more dead people” is no more persuasive than stating “more people equals more dead people.”

It seems that much of the current research and political discussion on gun control comes from people with essentially different opinions as to how to deal with criminal violence. One side believes that when encountering a threat, they need or want someone else, such as the police, to protect them. Therefore, they feel that no one other than the police needs to have guns. Those on the other side of the debate are willing to act to protect themselves and their loved ones at the point of criminal attack—perhaps with the use of a firearm. Remember that when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.

Our politicians and celebrities remember, as they rely on armed bodyguards.

David C. Hemphill ’67, Boulder City, Nevada


“Straight Shooting” could not have been more inappropriately titled. Rather than discussing balancing Second Amendment rights with the mechanics of sensible gun control, writer Matt Shaer offers the same tired information that causes intelligent, thoughtful people to be ever skeptical of the gun-control advocates. The author begins by discussing how Dr. Cook is contacted by The New York Times, National Public Radio, and Al Jazeera to gain his opinions and insights after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Certainly not the most objective news outlets covering the issue of gun control and gun violence. We are then presented with the “irrefutable” fact collected by Cook over his many years of research that “more guns equals more dead people.”

Unfortunately “facts” can be misconstrued. A recent Pew Research study showed that in spite of population growth and the increase in the number of guns in circulation, deaths due to gun violence are down 49 percent from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,078 in 2010. Gun homicides in 2010 were 3.5 per 100,000 people as opposed to 7.0 per 100,000 in 1993.

Shaer laments Cook’s frustration with getting “his truth” out because of the media machines of the NRA and other groups “taking charge of the agenda.” This is particularly amusing, as many people would suggest that the mainstream media have supported a gun-control agenda through their reporting of the issue. As per the Pew study, the majority of Americans (56 percent) believe

that gun violence is on the rise when in fact the exact opposite is true. This perception is certainly influenced by media reports such as the piece Duke Magazine has published.

Mark Landon ’75, M.Ed. ’77, Frisco, Texas


Thank you for your piece about gun control. It was well written and thoughtful. It’s obviously from the Left. Millions of us conservatives have almost 180-degree differing views on this. To us on the Right, the views of the Left are generally utopian and almost childlike.

Of course we’d all love to live in a world free of guns and violence, but that is not the world we have or ever will. Our world is one where evil will always be with us, and one of the best ways to counter it is by the good remaining strong and well armed, raising good boys particularly with strong dads at home, and passing along good values primarily through our churches and synagogues.

When Cook claims statistics shows societies with low gun ownership are the safest societies, I almost laugh. Russia, China, prewar Germany, and Cambodia were gun-free zones, and then about 100 million innocent souls were murdered. Norway is a gun-free zone, and Anders Breivik slaughtered seventy youngsters. Chicago is a gun-free zone, and each month twenty or thirty kids are murdered. Switzerland and Israel are replete with guns, and murder rates are low. The Left also never mentions the hundreds of thousands of violent acts in America stopped by law-abiding citizens wielding a gun. States with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes.

Does Cook know about the savage Islamic fascist that hacked to death a British policeman recently in London? Does he know that everyone around except the murderer was unarmed? Does he know none of the police were armed either; they had to call in a special unit allowed to carry weapons? This is the kind of society he wants to create? It’s not what most Americans do or should want.

Dr. Cook, we against your notions of disarming America are not NRA-funded fanatics. We are independent Americans who learn to try to take care of ourselves, including our safety, as much as possible. We don’t rely on the State generally for our safety or our food, clothing, housing, or medical care.

This is not a gun violence problem; it is a values and character problem. Nazi Germany was not a gas chamber violence problem; it was a problem with human evil. It is not a serotonin-based brain-development problem; it’s primarily a problem with the fact that people are not born good and must be carefully taught to be so.

I always ask my highly educated friends on the Left: What do you think would have more impact on murder rates, lowering the 300 million guns in the U.S. by 90 percent or increasing the number of responsible, strong, good fathers in the homes of our boys by 90 percent and increasing church attendance by 59.3 percent? (The question is rhetorical.)

I’m sorry that Leftist ideology so pervades our universities and drains wisdom from our kids. To millions of us, it’s certainly not worth $60,000 a year for our kids to daily hear such arguments typically unaddressed by the conservative side.

Howard Sachs ’76, Chevy Chase, Maryland


What’s in the Bottle?

No mention is made of bottled water as a possible cancer source [“Thirst for Knowledge,” Summer 2013]. Are there not current and ongoing studies of bottled water leaching from its plastic container substances of potential carcinogenic behavior?

Robert Mayo Failing M.D. ’56, Santa Barbara, California


Value Beyond the Campus

During a recent business trip, my boss (Yale ’98) and I discovered a mutual awe toward President Brodhead’s mastery of the English language [“Why College Is Worth It,” Summer 2013]. The discussion steered toward our parallel experiences as two underprivileged farm kids caught in the middle of two parallel “Ivory Towers.” Ironically, the awe extended to Dick’s mastery of genuine relationships. He personally opened our eyes to the world’s beautiful diversity, creativity in the face of challenges, and sincere passion for life’s nuances. Not only does he regularly achieve his mission, he helped us find ours. For us: “[Brodhead’s] education has payoffs far beyond the first paycheck.”

Remington Kendall ’07, Boise, Idaho



Your Summer 2013 is just about the very best issue I have read from cover to cover, one exciting article after another. Congratulations.

Luciano L’Abate Ph.D. ’56, Decatur, Georgia


Still Agitated

I was disheartened to read about the Kappa Sigma fraternity’s so-called “AsianTheme Party” earlier this semester [“Agitation Over an Asian-Theme Event,” Spring 2013]—and equally disheartened by your editorial choice to use the fraternity’s language to describe it. Events like these have nothing to do with an actual ethnicity or culture. I suspect that partygoers have little knowledge about or respect for any Asian culture. Duke Magazine would have more accurately described the event as having a “White Supremacy Theme” because it celebrates and normalizes whiteness through the objectification, humiliation, and caricature of others.

Further, Vice President Larry Moneta’s disappointment in the face of Duke’s commitment to “cultural sensitivities” also misses the mark. How sad to see this event on display in the same issue that recognizes Duke’s anniversary of racial integration. Events like this, along with the administration’s tepid response, bring shame to all of us in the Duke family.

Gita Gulati-Partee ’91, Durham



Kushal Seetharam ’14 and Yaohua Xue ’14 were juniors at the time of publication [“Notable,” Summer 2013], not sophomores.

Mary Ellen Wright B.S.N. ’81 incorrectly received an obituary [“In Memoriam,” Summer 2013]. Wright is still alive; we sincerely apologize for causing any undue alarm.



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