How many must die? before country acts?

The Second Amendment has claimed another 26 victims, and counting. When will the U.S. public wake up and face the fact that it may not be guns pulling the trigger, but assault weapons sure do make it easier to massacre people? How many more innocent people must pay the price for the preservation of the sacred right to bear arms?

A well-regulated militia was a product of the days when our nation had no organized military to speak of, no police force or army to protect us from domestic or foreign threat. Prior to the War of 1812, the Republican political party believed that the state militias could protect the country from any threat of foreign invasion. However, when faced with a professional military force – in other words, the British army as in the invasion of Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1814 – the militia broke and ran.

The only times militia have held against an opposing force is when well dug in, as in the Battles of Bunker Hill or New Orleans. Nonetheless, there are many who cling to this myth that privately held weapons will somehow protect us against some undefined threat. What a horrific mixture of myth and delusion. The only harvest we reap is mass murders, from Columbine to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. And now, we have Connecticut. We must thank the National Rifle Association for making this moment possible.

Todd Mitchell



Cadets shouldn't be forced? to embrace others' religion

A Dec. 13 letter writer who was relieved about a West Point cadet quitting with six months to go because he felt persecuted by a religious culture is certainly wrong. The issue is not brave men who gave their lives and were also religious; presumably there were many who served and died who were not religious, and were just as brave. Nor is the fact that politicians who invoked religion in times of stress particularly relevant; they were politicians, after all, and would not have done so unless it was politically expedient.

The cadet was complaining because he felt that the terms of his service included the embrace of beliefs he does not share. Apparently the writer feels he should share them, and if he doesn't he is not fit to serve. No reasonable person could agree with that view.

Peter H. Mott



Parents are vital part? of any school's success

I recently attended an event at Tapestry Charter School, a showcase of student work focusing on the charter school movement that drew hundreds of parents, community members and leaders on the same night the District Parent Coordinating Council held its parent assembly. It was distressing to read in The News that the assembly didn't attract the expected numbers, particularly when the district and the council made tremendous effort to get parents there.

Tapestry's success in drawing parents into its school community is intentional and worth consideration by city school leaders. The school works tirelessly to develop strong, interpersonal relationships with students and families. Before school begins in September, every parent receives a phone call from his child's teacher or adviser welcoming the family to the school community. Those new to Tapestry have an in-depth, face-to-face "intake" meeting with their child's teacher(s) before school begins. Advisory groups that build school families are an integral part of the school day. Every child is well known by at least one adult in the school community. Communication between school and family is ongoing. This deliberate and thoughtful process of relationship building engages families and makes them feel connected to and comfortable in the school community. If an issue arises that may negatively impact a student, the family relationship has been established and the issue is more easily resolved.

Parents are an integral part of the success of our schools and must be embraced as equal partners in all aspects of school culture and governance. The DPCC has worked so hard to have the parent voice heard. Academic success and positive school culture begins with individual school communities recognizing and valuing the importance of meaningful family engagement and one-on-one relationship building.

Amy Friedman



Right-to-work laws are?a ploy to weaken unions

Before you allow corporate America to tell you why right-to-work laws are good for the country, let's explore what it means to belong to a union. First off, a union must spend money to bargain a contract, file grievances and pay for arbitration when members have been treated unjustly by their employers. No one can run a business or household without income, and unions are the same. Unions sit and bargain a contract for their members along with work rules and safety standards. Just because a union bargains a contract does not mean it goes to the table and gets everything it wants. It is negotiated with the employer and it is a give-and-take situation. A CEO does the same thing when he gets a contract.

So, states with right-to-work laws say that you can work in a place that has a union, get the same rights and privileges as other dues-paying union members and the union must represent you, but you do not have to pay – it's optional. So, you get to freeload off the backs of the dues-paying members.

These laws are nothing more than a ploy to weaken unions financially so they cannot stand up to corporate America and its abuses to all workers. Some argue dues should not be used to fund candidates. They cannot be used that way; it is a separate and optional fund a member contributes to. Statistics show that in right-to-work states, the people make less and have less than states that are not right-to-work. Billionaire groups like ALEC are behind this, telling everyone they should have the freedom to freeload. I think not.

Diana Butsch

West Falls


New ECC building? belongs downtown

The "Buffalo billion" comes at a great time for Erie County. As the county welcomes to downtown Buffalo the Albany-based AMRI, an advanced manufacturing and health science company, it shows the need for education to be tailored to these expanding sectors in the region. Erie Community College plays a role in providing these educational programs because they will eventually lead to jobs that are the backbone of these sectors.

When ECC decides soon on where to place a new academic building, remember that we need our education and jobs in proximity to one another. By having classes near jobs, we can give all students of various socioeconomic backgrounds the chance to have internships and employment.

Gregory Conley

Co-chairman, Young Citizens for ECC, Buffalo