Letters: Learning from the Waldo fire 

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A people's fire review

I don't know about you, but I want to see and hear more of the facts relating to the Waldo Canyon Fire. Pam Zubeck's report on the fire ("Misfire," cover story, Dec. 12) should have every citizen of Colorado Springs' attention and I would ask the Independent to be the people's champion to get the full story told before the whitewashed version is released.

I would not like to see a third-party independent report done, because no politician, or agency, is going to let the faintest whiff of their culpability come to light on this devastating tragedy. And the experts of today are no better than the King's Court of yesterday — no one will say the King is naked. Besides, we had experts tell us a lot of things during the fire, and we saw how much they were listened to then when there was a chance to save lives and property.

No, I suggest that "We the people," aided by the great fourth estate (the Independent) get to the bottom of this tragedy through interviews with survivors, first responders and all the supporting cast of players. Because the trauma is not over. Our neighbors' lives have been torn apart ... are still being torn apart.

Considering the severity, mass destruction and human toll of the Waldo Canyon Fire, our city leadership should be able to account for every minute of their time and where their attentions were focused — and where they clearly weren't.

Yes, tell us we played a part by not raising taxes to pay for better communication gear, but then you'd better have a damn good reason why the command center we did pay for wasn't initially used, and the firefighters who could talk to each other couldn't find out "who's in charge."

— Charlie Mussi

Colorado Springs

Take another look

Every resident of Colorado Springs should be demanding an independent review and investigation of the handling of the Waldo Canyon Fire. We need the critique of wildfire specialists to fix the problems and issues that emerged, especially the leadership problems.

It is beyond arrogant that Mayor Bach has insisted that the city's after-action report is sufficient to address the multitude of problems that were documented in "Misfire" on Dec. 12 by the Independent. From evacuation plans that were implemented too late, to poor communication, to poor planning and organization, to poor command and control, to the poor use of available resources, this city has plenty to learn.

It's time for a tough outside look at the response to this fire and for real change before we start the next fire season. People's lives and property are at stake. If a few egos get bruised, too bad. If people in leadership positions need to be replaced, too bad.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Pam Zubeck for these investigative reports and to the Indy for its courage in publishing them. Apparently, the city's PR machine works fine and would have kept us all in the dark.

— Mary J. Talbott

Colorado Springs

Playing the fear card

Jill Coleman's attempt to take down Rich Tosches ("Media frenzy," Letters, Jan. 2) is a classic example of the right wing fringe's feeble debate strategy. Accusing Rich, and by extension every gun control advocate, of "pushing for an end to the Second Amendment" is about fear, not logic.

Create a straw-man argument not present in the original essay, get people afraid, and maybe they won't notice you have not presented any actual facts. It is reminiscent of Pat Robertson's nonsense about how legalizing same-sex marriage will make people want to marry their dogs and cats.

Ms. Coleman has to know that it is possible to add background checks to gun shows and outlaw military weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips without obliterating the entire Second Amendment. She can't admit she knows it, however, because it would force her to argue rationally, including explaining why ordinary, law-abiding citizens need to fire 100 rounds without reloading. There is no good reason, of course, so she hides behind the spurious "slippery slope" argument, the groundless notion that once gun control advocates get one law, they will want another and another until all guns are banned.

The slippery slope may get people riled up, but it is empty fear-mongering. Every proposed solution, from the president's on down to Tosches', has been limited to the problem of weapons whose only purpose is to kill a lot of people without reloading. No one is talking about hunting rifles or self-defense handguns, not now, not ever.

As the national discussion continues, I propose that Ms. Coleman and all NRA members stop pretending the Second Amendment is endangered by the modest effort to get rid of weapons no sane person really needs.

— Tim Rowan

Colorado Springs

Paranoia strikes deep

I found the letter by Jill Coleman in your Jan. 2 issue beyond disgusting. To accuse someone of being happy that 20 children were massacred is about as low as is possible. Rich Tosches was obviously as devastated by this horror as anyone else.

No one is talking about taking away Second Amendment rights that would affect any of the rabid gun owners who seem to live in a state of paranoia. If any of these people feel that they must own assault rifles in order to have satisfactory lives, they need to seriously think about what is important. To say that those who are concerned about the violence in this country want human beings killed in order to promote their views is ignorant and completely false.

The Founding Fathers lived in a different world. When the constitution was written, the idea that someone would murder schoolchildren or crowds of people was very likely something no one could have imagined or foreseen. The world has changed, and we need to change along with it.

— Sally Alberts


Leave it to the pros

Gun advocates always defend the argument that "If Mr. Smith only had a sidearm and some training, the killer would have failed." There's a prevailing "Old West" fantasy that if everyone were armed, Dodge City would have law and order.

But first of all, Dodge City (in its gun-toting days) never had law and order. Second, ask any war veteran who's been in combat, or a police officer who's been under fire: The best training rarely meets the challenge of an actual crisis. All training can do is equip one mentally, physically and materially, then one just "hopes for the best." Combat has proven that nothing is predictable. The anticipated hero is the least heroic, and vice versa.

The point is that even professional soldiers experience panic and hysteria. That said, imagine a scenario that's unexpected, involving ordinary citizens, some of whom who even have a gun. Reality is simply different from anything ever imagined or capable of being prepared for.

First, the gun-toting theory assumes that one is as proficient as a "professional" (controlled breath, focused, able to assess the situation, can distinguish the "target" from others, able to improvise with available materials, and of course is a proficient shot). Second, it assumes he's able to perch himself where he can actually shoot the attacker (plain-clothed, blended in, concealing a weapon). Third, it assumes that his "training" can handle overwhelming hysteria and screaming.

The NRA wants owners to think they can actually handle crises just by virtue of holding a gun and "feeling strong." But the person behind the trigger attempting to "do a good thing" most always ends up acting at the wrong time with the wrong people. He usually "regrets" his involvement, saying "I should have left it up to the police" — and the police agree.

— Richard Hiatt


Our exported violence

There have been many thoughtful letters about the recent shootings in Connecticut and their likely causes. Every time we have a shooting or, rarely, a terrorist attack there seems to be a subtext that says: "This is different — this is happening to us!" And yes, when it comes to these mass shootings, they seem to happen disproportionately in the U.S. Many are certain about how to fix this problem, although the evidence for any solution is never convincing.

At this time of uncertainty could we (just once) take a look at all the violence that we thoughtlessly have visited on people in other countries? In the midst of mourning for our fallen children, could we look at the weddings and funerals that our drones have blown to smithereens? Or perhaps the Iraqi children who will die of cancer because we bombarded their country with weapons encased in depleted uranium? Or the ones killed directly by our assault on their country? If these events even make it into the papers, we look at them and turn the page as if we were brushing off a fly.

We spend more on arms than the next 12 countries combined. Our arms industry is one of our most prosperous and does an especially brisk export business. A catalogue of demonstrations of our desire to nurture this metastasis of violence could fill this whole page

It is important to note that it is financed by our tax dollars, which is to say with our tacit approval. Should we really be surprised when violence breaks out "inexplicably" in our own backyard? Of course a link between the violence that we export and the violence we suffer can't be ascertained, but why should we imagine that we would be exempt from the horrors we have perpetrated on so many others? Isn't it time to say enough?

— Steve Milligan

Colorado Springs

Guns and profits

People are losing interest in hunting. According to the website americanrifleman.org, sales of hunting rifles have plummeted: Remington rifle production was down 22 percent from 2007-2008; Sturm, Ruger & Company reported in 2010 that hunting rifles "accounted for less than 15 percent of our sales"; Ed Brown Products, a boutique maker of custom-grade hunting rifles, has shut down production because sales were so bad; and Smith & Wesson have also fallen prey to this trend.

In an effort to make up for this lost revenue, gun manufacturers have been trying to stimulate sales of other varieties of firearms, like handguns and military-style weapons. To accomplish this, they've been exploiting people's fears, capitalizing on incidents such as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to make people feel vulnerable and make them want guns.

Please remember this when you hear pro-gun organizations, lobbyists and legislators suggesting that in order to be safe, we need more guns. This has nothing to do with being safe. It has nothing to do with protecting children. It has nothing to do with Second Amendment "rights." Like so much else, it has everything to do with money.

— Fred Kormos

Colorado Springs


Fight Citizens United

In November, the voters of Colorado voted overwhelmingly — something like 3 to 1 — in favor of Amendment 65, essentially requesting the Colorado Legislature to at least go on record as opposing the January 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which basically legalized bribery of elected and administrative officials of the government, in its several forms by removing "donation" limits and accountability. In effect, that ruling changed the United States from a democracy to a capitalistic oligarchy of corporate and big-money interests.

It would seem, with the public expression as large as the Colorado vote in November, that there would be some response from the Colorado Legislature. Unfortunately, based on calls to my representatives and the governor's office, that turns out to be somewhat naive. The answers I got were all, "There will be no response from the Colorado Legislature!"

The only way some action will be taken is for elected officials in our Legislature to initiate some form of resolution to the effect that the people of Colorado stand behind the U.S. Congress in creating a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. This has already been done by several states and some 29 U.S. senators, Michael Bennet among them, to his credit.

So this request: Call your Colorado representative and request that the Legislature respond to the voters' wishes. It only takes one legislator to initiate this action. Let's find him or her!

— John Hobson

Colorado Springs

Lamborn's antagonism

The legislation approved by the House of Representatives on Jan. 2 will increase the income tax rates of individuals earning at least $400,000 and couples earning at least $450,000 annually, a mere 0.7 percent of the American public.

Let me get this straight: Doug Lamborn voted against a measure that would keep in place the income tax rates of 99.3 percent of Americans? Certainly, Lamborn preferred a bill with reductions in government spending. Yet, if he can't support a bill that maintains 99 percent of the Bush-era income tax rates without expiration, what type of tax legislation will he vote for?

I do not understand the conservative antagonism to any legislative compromise.

— Joel Imrie

Colorado Springs

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