GUN-CONTROL zealots like Helen Ubiñas don't miss a beat when it comes to exploiting tragedy. Here's a more accurate breakdown: Of the 30,000 "deaths by gun," more than two-thirds are suicides. Not much we can do about this; if guns had any link to suicide rates, Japan would have the lowest suicide rate in the world instead of one of the highest.

Of the 10,000 or so homicides by gun, the vast majority are criminal-on-criminal or likely self-defense homicides. Studies have shown consistently that at least three-fourths of homicide victims (regardless of weapon) had lengthy criminal histories. More recently, many metropolitan police departments have begun linking criminal history and homicide, and the results are even more shocking: In 2007, Newark, N.J., reported that 83 percent of homicide victims had substantial criminal histories; Baltimore reported that 91 percent did. (Source: "Criminals target each other, trend shows," USA Today, Aug. 31, 2007.)

Meanwhile, as shocking as those numbers may seem, homicides and violent crimes have plummeted over the past 20 years, beginning with the rise of concealed-carry laws in the very early '90s. Since 2000, the number of guns in private hands has grown 50 percent, from roughly 200 million to 300 million - and, by far, the big sellers today are semiautomatic firearms - yet the crime rates have consistently declined. What's most shocking of all is that the violent crime and homicide rates have held steady or declined through the past two recessions! That's not supposed to happen. It defies all conventional wisdom: Historically, when the economy gets worse, crime of all types rises; when it gets better, crime drops. Yet, the traditional rise in homicide and violent crime did not happen, and even declined through the 2008 recession, when gun sales really skyrocketed.

Back to Bradley Stone: According to media reports, he had multiple DUIs, so he would have been ineligible to purchase a gun legally. Whether he did so is irrelevant, because either way, the nationally mandated background-check system failed us, as well as Pennsylvania's own background-check system. Because, while it may come as a surprise to gun-control zealots, many of us who live in the real world already know that background checks do absolutely nothing to keep guns out of the wrong hands. And, every tragedy that handwringers like Ubiñas cite is an example of the failure of gun control.

Carl Drake

Newtown, Pa.

Let me paint you a different picture

In the midst of an editorial about a painting contract at one charter school, you again attempt to tar all charters with the same brush. Your claim that the "academic performance of charters overall trails traditional public schools" is at odds with the facts in Philadelphia, especially when it comes to children in poverty.

Of the 196 city schools that serve students in poverty (student population that is more than 80 percent economically disadvantaged), just 17 schools are "on track" according to the most recent Department of Education data. The remaining 179 schools are rated as underperforming - in other words, failing to provide a quality education for our children. The vast majority of these schools (151) are "traditional" public schools.

Parents and families understand this horrific reality, and that's why there are tens of thousands of children on waiting lists for charter school admission.

We agree on the need for more charter oversight. We agree on the need for more state funding for all city schools. We strongly disagree about the performance of charters in Philadelphia, and I urge you to stick to the facts in the future.

Keisha Dandy

Philadelphia

Objection to letter on Ivy exam postponement

I found yesterday's letter by lawyer Dave Lipshutz in response to a column by Christine Flowers to be filled with disingenuous hyperbole. He claims that it is no big deal to ask for an exam postponement to attend personal events like a funeral. He then criticizes the author for rescheduling her own exams to attend her father's funeral, failing to mention that she took them ahead of time. Certainly every college comprehends family emergencies.

Postponing examinations to take part in political speech does not come under the category of personal emergency. And as a lawyer, Lipshutz surely knows the meaning of precedent. Once excuses are made to reschedule exams for this kind of activity, what is to stop the next group of angry, traumatized students from requesting similar allowances?

In her op-ed, "Spare us the trauma drama," Flowers does more than chastise minority students from Ivy League schools like Harvard who claimed they needed to be excused from law exams while nursing their "trauma" over the Michael Brown and Eric Garner nonindictments. She advises them rightfully that the wiser course would be to finish their studies on time and work through the legal system for justice.

Gloria C. Endres

Philadelphia