Letters: Pa. must close deadly gun loophole

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A police officer protects civilians outside a garage area at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., airport, where a gunman killed five travelers and injured six on Friday.

Pa. must close deadly loophole

Friday's shooting rampage at the Fort Lauderdale airport that killed five ("Horror at baggage claim," Saturday) is the latest tragic example of the need to clear up Pennsylvania's law relating to involuntary mental-health treatment and possessing firearms.

Under the law, people who have been involuntarily committed for mental-health treatment are ineligible to possess a gun, unless the treatment is on an outpatient basis. Regardless of whether such treatment is inpatient or outpatient, those patients should be barred from possessing a gun until the court determines they are no longer a danger to themselves or others.

My legislation, House Bill 22, is intended to prevent or limit harm to family members, the general public, and law enforcement officers, and to prevent mentally ill people from causing serious bodily harm to themselves.

|Mike O'Brien, state representative, 175th District, Philadelphia, MOBrien@pahouse.net

Real danger with Trump's tweets

The press is missing the big problem regarding Donald Trump's treatment of U.S. intelligence agencies and his tweets ("State of denial," Sunday). The grave danger is not that he doesn't accept and disparages the professionals; it's that he is advising his base via his tweets not to believe the "elite" professionals and to rely only on him and what he says, because he's "a smart person" (and very rich) and knows "things that other people don't know." Trump and his advisers will eventually accept reality, but his base is being encouraged to continue to mistrust the government and only believe their new supreme leader. This is the greatest danger to our nation.

|Greg McCoy, Chadds Ford

Smerconish missing the point

The condescension in Michael Smerconish's column describing his resolution to meet more Trump supporters is palpable ("In 2017, getting to know the other half," Sunday). He will reach out by "taking more meals at Cracker Barrel" and "shopping at Walmart." He talks about "factory floors" and "pickup trucks."

Actually, he does not need to wander far from his gated community. The class and color of those who engineered a complete repudiation of years of leftist policies and relentless lecturing by media elites such as him are not the homogenous group Smerconish described. He can interview doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in Center City and suburban office buildings. Heck, he can even find them in the fancy restaurants where he dines.

|Stephen J. Labroli, Whitpain, slabroli@hotmail.com

Invest in people to boost economy

As the world's most powerful economic engine, many factors affect our national economy. Slow population growth doesn't have to be a negative influence ("U.S. needs more babies," Friday). And it need not adversely affect per capita income, the most important measure of a healthy economy.

Rather than attempting to increase population through higher birthrates or immigration - recognizing that immigrants bring much value to our society - we should focus on improving job prospects for Americans, including the 7.5 million unemployed.

For starters, we can do better at educating our youth. Despite recent improvements, only 83 percent of students graduate from high school. And most college graduates find themselves with loan burdens that average more than $30,000.

Poor health also makes many people's incomes precarious. It seems that no one has any real idea of what may follow the threatened repeal of Obamacare. Sick people are unproductive people.

This isn't about throwing our border crossing gates wide open or slamming them shut. We can make America greater by improving education and health care. We're not going to scapegoat - or tweet - our way to a brighter future. It takes hard work and thoughtful investments in people.

|John Seager, president, Population Connection, Perkasie, jseager@populationconnection.org

Need more jobs, not babies

It is incomprehensible how the members of the Inquirer Editorial Board form their visions of the future. The most significant problem facing the United States in the 21st century will not be producing enough people to fill the existing jobs, but producing enough jobs to employ the existing people. We see news stories showing driverless cars, which translate into cabs, buses, trucks, and trains that will no longer require operators. We hear of department stores such as Macy's closing because people are buying online, and bookstores closing because folks are switching to Kindles. We see grocery stores where customers check themselves out, and schools that educate children online. Before mid-century, the U.S. government will be paying people to forgo childbearing. The last thing we need are millions of unskilled, uneducated people streaming across our borders.

|Mike Egan, Plymouth Meeting, mchlegan@gmail.com

Christie thwarting progress

New Jersey has lost $47 million for an offshore wind project, because Gov. Christie has been blocking offshore wind for the last six years, sacrificing our environment and jobs for his political ambitions. The U.S. Department of Energy has withdrawn funding for the Fishermen's Energy wind project, which would have used six windmills to produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes.

New Jersey was supposed to be the first state with offshore wind power. Now, Rhode Island has windmills in place, and New York is ready to follow. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management leased acres off our coast for windmills, enough to meet a third of the state's energy needs, but the lack of a funding mechanism has stymied billions of dollars in private investment.

Wind power would create thousands of jobs and jumpstart the coastal economy, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our impact on climate change. But we may not see it until we get a new governor, because without any financing rules, offshore wind is on hold in New Jersey.

|Jeff Tittel, director, New Jersey Sierra Club, Trenton

Pa. lawmakers must take action

If clichés about reforming government could be minted, Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) would have a surplus instead of a $1.7 billion deficit ("Pa. budget reforms needed to battle deficits," Jan. 4).

The senator ignores the fact that lawmakers passed a budget last year that did not include the revenue to pay for it. The Inquirer called it "a spending plan to nowhere." That hardly seems like reform.

He also ignores the devastating cuts to our public schools that were the cornerstone of budgets approved by the Republican majority in recent years. Gov. Wolf has restored some of those cuts, but more needs to be done. Pennsylvania ranks an embarrassing 46th among all states in its share of state funding for public education.

Lawmakers need to enact common-sense budget solutions, starting with an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which would immediately raise the income of 1.2 million Pennsylvanians. This increase would also generate up to $225 million in savings in the Medicaid program. Lawmakers must close corporate tax loopholes and enact a statewide Marcellus Shale excise tax.

There are plenty of solutions. What we need are lawmakers willing to do their jobs.

|Ted Kirsch, president, American Federation of Teachers of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, tkirsch@aftpa.org