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ASK BETH

Education is common denominator when it comes to gun control

Dear Beth:

Thank you for your excellent fact-based column on children and guns. This is a major public-health issue that is under-reported. We'll never know how many lives you've saved with this column, but I have no doubt that you will save some.

ANONYMOUS

Thank you. Some do not agree. Read on.

Dear Beth:

Your column on firearms and children makes some good points, but it also promotes some misleading facts. For example, the so-called ''Eight kids a day" statistic includes 19-year-olds who are legal adults. Many of these ''kids" are violent criminals. The statistics become much less scary if you don't pad them with the criminal acts of gangs and drug crimes.

Alarmist statistics only do a disservice by causing great fear over an issue that is actually one of the lowest threats to children. Yes, the Red Lake and Columbine incidents are shocking and horrible, but the very reason they are is that they are also very rare.

Every gun owner is responsible for unauthorized access to their firearm. In Massachusetts, this can result in criminal charges, but in every state it can be seen as negligence. Thank you for making the effort to reinforce safe storage. Much of the ''problem" with guns is pure curiosity that isn't being dealt with. If you tell a child ''no" and prohibit something, it only makes them more curious. I'd rather see a child learn about guns in a positive and safe environment than out on the street.

Most shooting clubs, and organizations like the Boy Scouts, take the mystery out of guns and develop the proper positive attitude toward them. Once the mystery is gone and the child knows how to be safe, accidents are unlikely to occur.

When it comes to very young children, you do need to prohibit, but even that should be done carefully. Education is the key. It's appalling that we'd make the effort to teach our kids about sex, drugs, and strangers, and yet do nothing to educate them about firearms. Guns have been a part of civilized society for 400 years. Yet no effort is made to satisfy the curiosity of children.

CHRISTOPHER SIANO

Mass. Basic Firearms Safety Instructor, Bolton Thank you for your thoughtful comments. The statistic was: ''In 2002, guns killed 2,893 American children and teens aged 19 and under. . . . Eight young people killed each day by guns."

Although 19-year-olds are legal adults, they're also teenagers. I'm as concerned about a 19-year-old who kills, or is killed, as I am a 10-year-old. Except for unavoidable accidents, each death is committed by someone who is disturbed, abandoned, and in desperate need of help. I'm concerned about accessibility. If you can easily get your hands on a lethal weapon -- whatever your age --and you are upset, suicidal, emotionally disturbed, or angry -- you're that much more likely to commit a lethal act.

We're polarized as a country on this issue because what makes one group feel less fearful -- having guns in order to protect yourself --actually causes the other group to feel more afraid --having more guns available to anyone, whether they are qualified or not. Fear is the common denominator. Until each group can fully understand the fears of the other, we will not be able to cross the divide that separates us.

Beth can be reached at askbeth@globe.com.

Send letters to Ask Beth, The Boston Globe, PO Box 55819, Boston MA 02205-5819. Questions can be answered only through this column. Ask Beth is a registered trademark of Globe Newspaper Co.

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