In addition to guns and gun control laws, our readers are concerned about homeless people camping in parks and natural areas.

I am writing to you on a recent topic that arose concerning gun control.

Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase a rifle after one month of turning 18 years old, in which he killed 17 people at that Florida high school.

This raises alarms and brings more attention to the gun control debate than ever. In some countries built around hunting, people ages 14 can buy long guns without parental consent. Handguns have more limitations than rifles and other long guns. This doesn't add up, as every mass shooting involved an assault rifle such as an AR-15 or AK-47, which can be purchased anywhere if you are at least 18 years old. The AR plays an oversize role in many of the most high-profile shootings, including the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, and the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — the attack by a gunman holed up in a Las Vegas hotel that left 58 dead and hundreds injured.

Sam Zalyashko

Vancouver, Washington

Change the gun laws

Wednesday Feb. 14, was just another day for most Americans. We got our valentines ready for our loved ones, got ready for work and school and started our day.

I work in a high school, and it was a day of watching students give each other bears, hugs, candy and to connect with one another.

At 2:30 that afternoon I was asked if I had seen the news. I said no; I had been busy with work and had not had a chance. I work in a security position so I wanted to make sure the building was clear and the students had just left for the day.

I was stunned and shocked to hear another school shooting tragedy has occurred, and I wonder why.

All I could think about is what I would do if this happened at my school. I was so sad and heartbroken as I watched the news that night.

Emma Gonzalez, a student at the school where the incident happened, spoke so well on Saturday as they prepared to bury their friends, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers. "Shame on you," she said, referring to the $30 million given to politicians. She was crying and talking about students who are now dealing with PTSD.

Too many students for years saw signs of concern with this former student. That student needed help and support. The kids knew it and the teachers knew it.

In my career I have seen students like that. I think about 20 years ago, when Kip Kinkel walked into Thurston High School and shot students. He also killed his parents. Sadly, he used his parents' gun to do this. The following spring in April 1999 was Columbine. One of my former students lived there and remembered how hard it was on the community to grieve and find peace after such a horrible act of violence.

Teachers and security gave their lives for their students. We need to support Florida and support our kids who are anxious and scared because this keeps happening. The following day after the horrible incident in Florida, I had a student go home not from the flu but from anxiety.

I love my students, and my job is to make sure that they get a good education and stay safe. I need support from my family and community to do this. At the end of the day we all love our kids; they are our future. Let's make this sad moment a teachable moment and do something to support banning assault weapons.

Write to your representatives and senators. Be willing to be the voice for change. Now more than ever, we need people to stand up and make a difference in our laws relating to guns. My brother was shot when was 13, so I know what it's like for family to go through something like this. We were lucky — he survived.

Let's make a difference and be a voice for our kids and not forget those beautiful 14 children and three adults who died from gun violence on Valentine's Day. Let's not forget!

Cherise Arthur


Homeless camps don't belong in parks, natural areas

The city of Portland removed a homeless encampment from a Columbia Slough natural area in Northeast Portland. The Big Four Corners natural area harbors sensitive fish and wildlife habitats, lies on flood-prone land, is isolated from public transit, and distant from public services. We believe the houseless population in Portland deserves better treatment than a temporary camp at such a location.

Are the cities and counties doing enough to address the crisis of housing affordability and needs of the houseless population? No. Do we need a larger commitment of public resources to transitional and permanent affordable housing, addiction and mental health support? Yes. But our parks and natural areas are not appropriate and humane places to establish temporary encampments.

We can do better, and the houseless deserve better.

In addition to holding our elected leaders accountable, certain neighborhoods, businesses and individuals need to step up to the challenge of finding humane solutions. Neighbors fighting the proposed Southeast Foster Road shelter, Overlook Neighborhood Association leaders seeking to exclude Hazelnut Grove residents, and downtown business leaders threatening to move their headquarters are divisive actions and not helpful.

Many, like us, in the conservation community have and will continue to support inclusionary zoning policies, SDC waivers for affordable housing, new funding/programs for housing, and social services for those in need.

We have more work to do locally and at the national level (to fight federal housing budget cuts, for example). Many in the business, faith, and nonprofit communities are engaged, but we can and should do more. Nonetheless, constructing informal tent cities in floodplains, wetlands and fire-prone forests where we have spent millions in public money is dumb and inhumane, and only distracts the public and diverts limited resources from real solutions.

Ted Labbe

Northeast Portland

Straight shooting

I feel that I must respond to Gregory Waite's letter "Reciprocity weakens Oregon gun laws."

Most of what he says is untrue. Surveys have proven that people licensed to carry concealed firearms are more law-abiding than the general population, which is 98 percent of the population.

The criminal element is 2 percent of the population. Half (1 percent) are into "white collar" crime; think Bernie Madoff. The other half (1 percent) are into physical crimes, with 6 out of 10 into stealing your stuff. And the other 4 out of 10 are into person crimes, that is less than 1 out of 200.

Most of us are reasonably safe.

John Sweeney

Southeast Portland

Past president, Oregon State Shooting Association

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