Justice For Ashcroft

Contrary to what James Ridgeway reports in Mondo Washington, it is too early for the National Abortion Federation to determine whether John Ashcroft's Justice Department is vigorously enforcing the laws protecting abortion providers and their patients from violence ["John Ashcroft, Good Guy," March 20]. NAF was an active member of a coalition of more than 200 progressive organizations that opposed Ashcroft's nomination for attorney general because we believed, based on his past record, that his extreme anti-choice ideology would prevent him from vigorously enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and other laws protecting abortion providers.

The Justice Department under Janet Reno made it a priority to apprehend those responsible for committing acts of violence against abortion providers, and took actions that deterred extreme forms of violence. We are still concerned that we will not have that kind of support from Ashcroft. The lives of those who provide safe, legal abortion care to women depend on the continued enforcement of laws by the Justice Department and the Task Force. As the professional association of abortion providers, we will be the first to speak out when—and only when—we know whether the Justice Department is doing its job.

Vicki Saporta, Executive Director
National Abortion Federation
Washington, D.C.

Vanity Fair

Although I read with interest Nick Mamatas's story on iUniverse and Xlibris ["Attack of the Living Slush Pile," March 20], I take issue with the article's lack of distinction between vanity presses and print-on-demand (POD) publishers.

As Mamatas indicates, vanity presses are quick-buck operations, which generally do not support their authors. However, print-on-demand publishers charge significantly less than vanity presses, and some of the better POD publishers actively market the works of their authors.

While I do not totally disagree that some of these books lack merit, consider the positive side of POD publishing: Authors who have been overlooked in the bureaucracy and elitism that is traditional publishing have been given a chance, the author retains all rights to his work, and the books do not go out of print.

Greg Ryhal
Bloomington, Indiana

Nick Mamatas replies: Some PODs claim that they allow their authors to retain all rights, but simply by distributing books in exchange for royalties, rights are—by common definition of the term—being exhausted. It will take a court case to untangle the claims of the PODs with regard to how publication rights are usually defined. Mr. Ryhal is correct that PODs are often cheaper than traditional vanities, but since PODs do not have to print more than a few books for many authors, one should expect a lower price. However, a low-margin sucker deal is still a sucker deal.

Glock Talk

Hannah Glover and Erica Pearson's article on guns in Brooklyn ["Young Gun," March 27] was interesting, but clunkers in the text spoiled it for me.

I don't know what kind of gun Derrick Jones got at age 14, but it's very unlikely that it was "a nickel-plated .380 Glock"—Glocks are known chiefly for their extensive use of plastic. Moreover, federal laws restrict purchases of .380 Glocks to law enforcement agencies.

And whoever Jones bought his new gun from in Virginia is violating federal law, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Even if there were no federal law, according to state law Virginia dealers can sell only long guns to out-of-state residents, and then only to residents of contiguous states—of which New York is not one.

Glover and Pearson also wrote that " 'Straw buyers' are people who buy guns in bulk legally in Southern states, where laws are more lenient, and then turn the weapons over to secondary buyers, often from the North, at a handsome profit." Straw buyers can be easily tracked down: The ATF receives a form recording the name, address, and phone number of anyone who buys more than one handgun at a time.

Finally, Virginia's gun buyers have been limited to one gun a month for some time—to eliminate the allegation of straw purchasing. I strongly suspect that Jones's statements to Glover and Pearson that he purchased four guns there is a case of a ghetto lad having fun bullshitting a couple of credulous reporters.

Michael J. Dix
San Jose, California

Hannah Glover and Erica Pearson reply: The section of federal law to which Dix alludes states: "Federal firearms licensees are generally prohibited from transferring firearms to persons who do not reside in the State where the licensee's premises are located. . . . " While Virginia does have a one-gun-per-month law, Jones told us he bought his guns on separate occasions. And while it is true that gun dealers are required to notify the ATF when individuals purchase more than one gun at a time, because of the number of dealers, absolute enforcement is impossible. According to the ATF's National Crime Gun Trace Report issued on November 30, 2000, 80 percent of those guns traced in New York City during 1999 were tracked to sources out of state. With respect to the first gun Jones remembers receiving, he was told it was a nickel-plated Glock by the man who got him into the business nine years ago, when he was 14.

Next Page »