Blaming talk radio in column went too far

Robert Snyder’s Feb. 6 column, “Auntie Got My Gun …” requires a response. In it, he calls out defenders of the Second Amendment, which in and of itself is fine, but steps over a line when linking Jimmy Lee Dykes’ actions – killing a school bus driver and taking a 5-year-old boy hostage – to being a conservative and listening to Rush Limbaugh. Like listening to heavy metal music incites violence.

As a counterpoint, the article also calls out National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre for calling for a study on video game violence invoking the First Amendment, freedom of expression. While I don’t see why we need the study, I also don’t see why a study is a threat to First Amendment rights.

For the record, I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. However, his program is popular and I know many good people who listen to it. To the best of my knowledge, these good folks haven’t yet committed murder, nor do I think they are likely to. Regarding Jimmy Lee Dykes, if we assume that he was indeed a “conservative” did he commit murder because he listened to Rush Limbaugh? Really?

On the other hand, there is Christopher Dorner, the former LAPD policeman, charged with multiple murders. To the best of my knowledge, he is not a Rush Limbaugh fan. I would be willing to bet he isn’t even a Republican. According to the Huffington Post, he is a big fan of CNN’s Anderson Cooper and First Lady Michele Obama.

Then there is the Family Research Council shooter Floyd Lee Corkins II, convicted earlier this month of terrorism. In his testimony, Corkins admitted that he targeted the FRC after discovering them using the so-called “hate map” provided by the “liberal” Southern Poverty Law Center. Here is a documented cause and effect – and in my humble opinion, the “hate group” is the SPLC.

And who could forget union leader Jimmy Hoffa appearing on CNN last December after Michigan passed its right to work law? Said Hoffa: “This is just the first round of a battle that’s going to divide this state. We’re going to have a civil war.”

Mr. Snyder, this sounds like a Red Dawn militia scenario to me, and I think that it goes without saying that Mr. Hoffa isn’t a conservative or a Republican.

In the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, Michael Moore said something I agree with: “Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American.” I don’t often find common ground with Moore, but it makes common sense that we should agree on fundamental principles. I also find common ground with Robert Snyder — regarding the First Amendment.

There are many examples of attempts to abridge speech. In 1985, the Parents Music Resource Center was formed to combat obscene and violent lyrics in popular music. Rap and heavy metal were particularly targeted. There were congressional hearings. Witnesses testified that heavy metal was different from other forms of music in that it was “mean spirited” and that a central element of it was “hatred.” Imagine that – heavy metal considered as a hate crime, three decades ago. By the way, the driving force behind the PMRC was Tipper Gore, former wife of Al Gore, who was not a conservative, nor a Republican.

Finally, regarding the NRA, it is an advocacy group whose mission is to ensure that Second Amendment rights are respected and not infringed. It doesn’t do as good a job as it could, particularly in the vetting of candidates. However, it is bipartisan, as it should be. Its recent endorsements include Sen. Joe Manchin, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, state Sen. Herb Snyder, state Sen. John Unger and Delegate Tiffany Lawrence. What do these folks have in common? They are all Democrats. Newly elected Delegate Paul Espinosa, a Republican has also been endorsed. In fact, there are few elected officials in all of West Virginia that have not received an A rating from the NRA.

While we are born with unalienable rights, those rights come with responsibilities. We have the right to free speech and freedom of expression but we must hold each other accountable for what we say and do. That is why I have written this letter. Further, our freedom of speech does not infringe upon any other right. We have the right to own and bear arms. It is our moral duty to exercise that right responsibly. Ultimately it is our actions that speak louder than words.

Elliot Simon

Harpers Ferry

A short-sighted decision with long-term impact

I was disappointed to read in last week’s Spirit of Jefferson that the County Commission had voted to upzone wetlands property on the Evitts Run from rural to the “anything goes” zone.

The 3-2 decision was made even though surrounding property owners and county planning staff, as well as representatives from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, the West Virginia Nature Conservancy, and the Fresh Water Institute, all recommended against it.

As natural filters of agricultural and suburban runoff, wetlands are always worth preserving. But the wetlands around the Altona Marsh just outside of Charles Town, is even more critical to Jefferson County residents.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA just last year finalized the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan for Jefferson County. We are being held to a zero increase in nitrogen and phosphorous emissions into the Shenandoah River. This WIP can be thought of as a pollution diet, where Jefferson County has agreed to offset any increase in one area with an equal decrease somewhere else.

This short-sighted decision, along with similar actions by the Commission over the past year, have a cumulative effect which directly impact the Chesapeake Bay “model.” Unless we start making smarter decisions soon, we may be faced with stormwater taxes, a “flush” tax or additional restrictions on an already overburdened agricultural sector.


John Maxey

Blue Ridge Mountain

Ballenger should be appointed

At the heart of self-government, power rests with the citizens.

In a republic, officers are elected to represent citizens and are responsible to them.

It may be necessary and helpful to remind ourselves and our representatives of this once in a while. Because of Bobby Shirley’s resignation, the office of Jefferson County sheriff is vacant. Under West Virginia law, his successor is to be chosen by our county commissioners — three Democrats, two Republicans — who are in turn responsible to the voters. Most thoughtful people would agree that for obvious reasons, partisan politics should not be a consideration when it comes to law enforcement. The law is supposed to be impartial and by implication, nonpolitical.

Perhaps someday West Virginia will elect judges and sheriffs without regard to their political affiliation. But not now.

In order to run for Sheriff, retired deputy Earl Ballenger registered with the Republican Party.

Of more than 21,000 votes cast, he lost by a mere 399 votes. However, in order to qualify to be appointed sheriff, he has re-registered with the Democrat Party. While others seeking the office received no votes, the most responsible decision by our commissioners would be to respect the wishes of the thousands of voters who cast their ballots for Earl Ballenger and appoint him interim sheriff until the next scheduled election.

Our County Commission is permitting the public to observe this interviewing process. Efficient and responsible law enforcement is really everyone’s business, isn’t it?

Brian Bellman

Charles Town

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