Union Democrat staff

Cars kill more people than guns

To the Editor:

Domenic Torchia, on Feb. 11 you made statements about the NRA's and Sheriff Mele's statements that background checks and gun laws do nothing to deter criminals from using guns. You also contend that in 2005, 155,000 applications for gun permits were disapproved. However, an overwhelming majority, if not all, of the 155,000 believed they would pass that check. Criminals don't apply for a such permits. Felons still get weapons.

You also said that 30,000 people were killed by guns in 2005. That same year 45,000 people were killed in auto accidents. You're not campaigning to ban or restrict driving cars. That's because you know driving cars itself is not the problem. In that same year 43,000 deaths were caused by drunk driving. There are plenty of laws on the books banning drunk driving yet it still goes on.

Look at some of the places that have the Nation's most restrictive gun laws. Chicago has the most restrictive gun laws yet it leads the country in gun violence. San Francisco banned handguns a couple of years ago. Gun crimes went up. Los Angeles has laws similar to Chicago's, and they come in second.

Criminals avoid guarded places. If you disarm law abiding citizen, you embolden armed criminals. If officials come to our homes to take or guns, there will be plenty of objections, but no resistance. That's because they'll be taking those guns away from law abiding citizens, not criminals. How much resistance is there when criminals have to give up their guns?

Mark W. Leyva


Amgen is a dirty bedfellow

To the Editor:

Readers may recall the excitement about the Amgen-sponsored Tour of California bike race through host-city Sonora last May. It was something of a love-fest between the world's largest biotechnology firm and our little city. We were smitten. Business was good.

Did our leaders at the time know much about Amgen Inc. - that, in particular, it has been continuously involved in litigation, going back at least to April 2007? Early lawsuits alleged misrepresentation of the safety of certain of its drugs. In 2008, Amgen paid $200 million for violating anti-trust laws by offering discounts to cancer clinics. Several whistleblower cases since then have involved numerous charges, including paying $1.5 million to suppress testimony in a patent trial, under-reporting adverse effects from clinical trials to the Food and Drug Administration, and using various deceptive marketing and sales practices. In one trial, five former executives took the Fifth Amendment.

This past December, Amgen paid out $762 million in civil and criminal penalties to settle 15 deferral and state lawsuits. Amgen pleaded guilty to promoting its highly lucrative anemia drug for uses not approved by the FDA, and at higher than approved doses. The New York suit also alleged kickbacks to boost sales of six drugs. Of the $762, $15 million were criminal penalties, reportedly the largest ever for a biotech firm.

Now, just this past month, we learned that Amgen, with its army of 74 lobbyists, obtained a sizable gift from Congress. Inserted in the "fiscal cliff" bill is a paragraph allowing Amgen huge profits from its kidney dialysis drugs, and which will cost the Medicare program an estimated $500 million over the next two years.

The Amgen-backed Tour made nice to us last spring. Our city was thrilled. Too bad we fell for suitor lacking integrity. But, alas, as the poet said, "Love is blind."

Dick Peterson


Weighing in on religious conflict

To the Editor:

The two Muslim sects vying for supremacy is akin to the old battles of Protestants fighting Roman Catholics in Europe (still ongoing in Ireland). Iran and tiny Bahrain contain majority Shias, and significant in Lebanon who are in the Hezbollah Party (the fighting militia in the South who are a reckoning force against Israel and shape the politics of Lebanon).

The Saudis are nervous that their Shia in their South will rebel and follow the path of Iran and want an Islamic State. The Saudis out spend Iran in military hardware from overseas and hope their modern Air Force can defend them against Iran. Iran manufactures their own missiles and have a large standing Army that prevents any foreign invasion.

The Iranians have a large middle class, homespun technology and controlled democracy with well educated mullahs on the steering wheel. The suicide bombers in Iraq and Pakistan are extremist Sunnis wanting to kill Shia, Christians, Jews and on 9/11 wanted to kill any Americans in the path of hijacked aircraft. I favor the Shias and think the U.S. government should reconsider their relationship with the Saudi Sunni government. There was not one Iranian behind any attacks on 9/11, U.S.S. Cole, etc. Our Middle East mistakes have already cost us about 3 trillion dollars in 10 years and the saga continues (includes future payments for Veterans and debt).

Dennis Schneider

Angels Camp