I am writing in regard to Richard Gaines's story "Awake At Last" (May 6). First it was Nicaragua, next Panama, and then it was Iraq. But this time the invasion was not foreign, it was domestic. That's right. The U.S. government invaded its own country. Manuel Noriega must have been sitting in jail laughing over the irony of this whole mess. I do not condone the senseless killings that occurred during these riots, but I fully understand the anger and outrage of blacks, as well as whites, residing in Los Angeles and all over the world - although I do not believe that I would have been more horrified if the residents of L.A. had just sat idly by after the outcome of this verdict.

Laura Thomas
Miami Beach

The conclusions of this fellow Richard Gaines are atrocious. It is this kind of mentality that is responsible for the outrage in Los Angeles. The real reason for the rioting and burning is that these criminals know they can get away with it without punishment. It's happened so many times in the past. Gaines's notion of wealth and poverty is ludicrous. There is no sinful maldistribution of wealth. The great majority of wealth is due more to perspiration and brains. This fellow Gaines agrees with the politics of envy and condescension.

C.W. Fagerstrom

During the past week there has been much cause for anger, outrage, and disgust, but Rafael Navarro's shameless attack on those law-abiding citizens who choose to avail themselves of their basic human (and constitutional) right of self-defense took the cake ("Bullets N' Things," April 29). Perhaps never was such a misguided barrage of slanderous journalism more fortuitously well-timed to show the error of his arrogant presumptions. Not a day after he insinuated that gun owners are frightening, radical, criminal bigots and racists, my home town vividly exposed his lies.

Before you write me off as another "radical ethnocentric conservative" you should know that I am a former Los Angeles County deputy public defender. I had several clients who were subjected to the brutality of your benign police state (wherein the authorities have guns and batons, but we don't) and I have represented the victims of racism and discrimination. Frankly, Navarro's racist ramblings disgusted me.

Perhaps in his rush to "play God and gamble with lives" (to paraphrase the article), he would have us all turn in our guns and rely on the good graces of a more "civilized" police state. Plainly, his dream world doesn't work. Those who relied on the police were left holding a bag of broken dreams. As our homes, businesses, and lives were burned and looted, his benign "civilized" police did nothing. My friend in East L.A. was dumbfounded that while mobs were openly gutting her block, the police only three blocks away refused to leave the fortress of their station house.

I had several friends, the lone Asian or Caucasian in their neighborhoods, whose only solace was their loaded shotgun. Many fine Korean merchants would be surprised to learn that they are supposedly (if we are to believe Navarro) frightening, uncivilized bigots. If it were not for their courage and guns, many more homes and businesses would have been destroyed. It was well-armed private citizens who saved us, not Navarro's benign police state.

It's nice to wish that in some Never-Never Land we could all be free of the responsibility to protect ourselves; that we could rely on some benevolent government to save us from misery and anguish. The truth is that when the world plummeted into chaos, Navarro's paternalistic vision of civilization threw us to the fires of rage and destruction. Lesson: The only person upon whom you can rely is yourself, and you had better be prepared (and armed) when the firestorm comes. It can happen anywhere.

Raphael Ortolano, Jr.
Los Angeles

I just read the article "Bullets N' Things" by Rafael Navarro, and it was brilliant, literary, and insightful. Though I am a member of both the NRA and the ACLU, the balancing of the right to bear arms with the harmful consequences of some harassed citizens who should not have guns is an issue that should not be put under the table. In any case, I salute the writer for a fine piece of journalism.

Al Goldstein
New York City

Rafael Navarro's "Bullets N' Things" was interesting. Being an avid target shooter, I have attended many of these gun and knife shows over the years and was looking forward to a colorful story accurately portraying these events. This was not it. The Truman Capote leadoff was a definite hint as to where Mr. Navarro was coming from.

I find his description of the show attendees (called "Joe Sixpacks") as "grossly...obese" and covered with "multitudinous tattoos" colorful. He continues to stereotype by describing their attitudes and behaviors as "racist," "bizarre," "emphatically objectionable" and "propaganda."

However, my extensive experiences at these shows has been considerably different. I have found them to be attended, for the most part, by well-mannered, well-dressed professional people and their families (there are more baby buggies than at the Home Show!). These people are either active target shooters looking for a bargain, interested in home protection information, or are just interested in spending a pleasant weekend afternoon. Hardly an environment full of the fat-tattooed biker/derelicts that Mr. Navarro seems to have located. I have seen more objectionable people attending the annual Fairchild Tropical Garden ramble!

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