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Letters | Gun-control debate rages

Graham invokes post-Katrina rumors in defense of assault weapons

I was curious about what you described as Senator Lindsey Graham’s claim that “semi-automatic weapons are essential for personal protection” (“Prospects limited for gun control,” Page A1, March 7). Graham, a South Carolina Republican, “used post-Katrina New Orleans as an example, saying, ‘If my family was in the crosshairs of gangs roaming around neighborhoods . . . the deterrent effect of an AR-15’ is greater than a shotgun.”

My initial reaction was to wonder why Graham wouldn’t have evacuated his family prior to a Katrina-like disaster, as most citizens of means did. Next, I wondered how many New Orleans families actually did have to protect themselves from roaming gangs.

A quick Google search led me to: “Rumor to Fact in Tales of Post-Katrina Violence” (New York Times, Aug. 26, 2010). Apparently, “rumors and half-baked anecdotes” led to “a kind of ugly consensus: poor blacks and looters were murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path.” The truth turned out to be quite the opposite: US Justice Department investigations revealed “white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups, and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe.”

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Graham’s pronouncements have a profound impact on the debate about gun control. With that power comes an obligation to get his facts straight.

Janice Blake

Milton