Spanking, Gun Control, Network News readers took issue last week with a column that took a critical look at the basic concept of spanking through the prism of the Madelyn Toogood child abuse case. While they agreed that the beating Toogood delivered was an abusive assault, most felt that there was nothing wrong with using milder forms of physical force to discipline a child.

Columns looking at the big television networks’ decision not to air the president’s speech two weeks ago, and exposing the unreliability of ballistic fingerprinting of firearms, also generated strong responses.

Here is a selection from this week’s mail.

On the subject of spanking:

Anonymous writes:

I feel that "beating" a child is wrong. A slap on the rear for inappropriate behavior is another story altogether. In the animal kingdom, we frequently see how a mother dog or horse will swiftly give their offspring a quick swat or bite in order to let the young one know their behavior must stop immediately. They don't permanently damage their offspring, but get their attention to make a point. When you start legislating a parent's discipline, our moral structure in this country will lose all integrity. I see too little discipline in today's youth. Perhaps it's not a lack of physical discipline, but it is discipline nonetheless.

Mattie Lawson writes:

A swift, single spank with the palm of the open hand to the well-padded buttocks of a toddler out of love and never out of anger is not a "beating." A beating is abuse. To not discipline a child effectively is also a form of child abuse because the child will not learn self-control. The goal of discipline is to teach self-control. A child who is not effectively disciplined could endanger his or her life or the lives of others in later years. When properly applied, a spanking is not harmful even though it may be momentarily painful. It is not logical to try to reason with a toddler. A toddler is not a small adult, but an immature person not yet fully schooled in how to behave. It is the responsibility (not the "right") of the parent to teach the child self-control. No one has the right to impede the carrying out of that responsibility.

L. Jay Reinke writes:

Toogood's behavior was assault. As a parent who spanks his children, I cannot justify her actions. However, it is legitimate to distinguish imposed physical consequences on a child's misbehavior from such a beating. To assert that any lack of response to Toogood's behavior is due to our desire to justify wrongful behavior is painting with too broad a brush. Likewise, your determination that all physical discipline is "assault" is a verbal deception.

Theresa Culberson writes:

To compare the relationship between a husband and a wife to the relationship between parents and children is irresponsible. You would then be assuming that on every level that children and parents are equal. It is not the responsibility of a husband or a wife to educate his or her spouse and motivate them to behave properly so that they can form into adults with some modicum of self-control, thus enriching society. An adult is also not legally responsible for the behavior of their spouse -- unlike the responsibility they have as a parent.

An Outraged Disciplinarian writes:

Spanking is delivered on the posterior with an open hand to correct undesirable action(s) exhibited by the child. I find classifying what happened in that parking lot as a spanking to be not only unconscionable, but also irresponsible. The bottom line is this: watching that video clip should have outraged everyone. It doesn't matter whether a person disciplines through spanking, or through other means. The incident that occurred in that parking lot was offensive and outrageous. It was an illegal act committed by Toogood against her daughter and, as stated in your title, should be called a crime because it is. On that same token, parents disciplining children through spanking is not illegal, period.

Scotty Dickey writes:

There is a vast majority of parents who understand the important roll spanking played in their own lives. I, on the other hand, was not spanked as a child. I know that my parents felt they were doing the loving thing. They tried to create an environment of discipline without employing any form of corporal punishment. As a result, I failed to learn any discipline until I was a college student.

Most of the hardships I've endured in my life and most of the pain I have caused others is directly linked to my lack of discipline. The extent to which I have enjoyed any success in life is directly linked to the discipline I have learned in my adulthood. The problem is that it is far more difficult to learn as an adult, and the consequences are far worse than any simple spanking.

Susan O’Connor writes:

Please don't confuse a child being beaten for a child being spanked. Parents are charged with the incredible responsibility of teaching their children right from wrong. It is this responsibility that I believe should allow them the latitude to create boundaries, rules with clearly understood consequences. Parents don't deserve the right to spank a child simply because they gave birth to that individual. But a child left to go his or her own way, without the benefit of carefully drawn out parameters, will be read about in the papers along with those kids in Wisconsin who beat a man to death.

You don't read about National Merit Scholarship winners who say that their parents took a hands-off approach to parenting and just allowed them to go their own way. It takes a great deal of involvement, and even more love, to raise caring, well-behaved and productive citizens. It does not require beating.

Barbara C. Moore, LCSW writes:

I believe your article attempts to reframe the child welfare reform issue by looking critically at the legal system and social norms condoning spanking, rather than focusing on the failings of so-called "social workers."  As long as courts reunify abusive parents with children, caseworkers have little power to prevent abuse. Consistent with focusing blame where it belongs, please do not repeat the slurs of those who scapegoat and denigrate "social workers."  Social work is an honorable profession that deserves more respect than it is often given in the media.

In response to Fox News Watch:

Jim Kress writes:

The "mainstream" media did not run the Bush speech for one reason. They remember how Reagan used the media to convince the American people to support his policies, policies that were anathema to the liberal extremists at the networks. They have sworn not to make the same mistake with Bush. Thus, they refused to run this speech and will probably selectively deny him coverage in the future.

Andrew Foster writes:

The networks did not fulfill their responsibility as a news agency.  They seem more interested in pumping out entertainment than informing the public. They will decide what we should hear and then slant it to their point of view. This was an opportunity for the public to see and hear for themselves the point that the president is trying to make.

It seems to me that ABC, CBS, and NBC are more interested in filtering what we see and hear than letting us decide for ourselves.  They will decide what is important to us, and what we should see and hear. This is one of the most important issues that we as Americans face today. We the people should be able to form an opinion, based on what the president says, not on what the networks say he said.

Diane Lowery writes:

I am one of the one-third who doesn't get cable. I would've appreciated hearing from my president. I tuned in to the local stations expecting to hear the speech, but was very disappointed not to find it televised. I am an informed citizen who will go the extra measure to find out what was said. There are many citizens who will not go out of their way to become informed. They still need to have the opportunity to listen to what our country is up to--whether they like it or not!  Thank you for remembering us "non-cable" citizens.

Ted McIntyre writes:

I have to disagree. President Bush did not address the nation, he addressed a group of political followers in a very political environment. President Bush was not attempting to give new evidence to the nation as to why we should invade Iraq, instead, he was exerting political pressure on the Senate to pass "his" resolution regarding invading Iraq.

Remember, the administration gave all the networks the text of the speech in advance. Then, to get the networks to carry the speech, he had it spiced up. I'm sorry, you don't spice up a speech to the nation at the last minute, just so as the nation will be able to watch it. The argument that the government owns the airwaves is an old, tired one. Yes, the government has "control" of the airwaves, but it is the American citizenry that actually owns the airwaves.

The networks have no responsibility to air a very political speech, but they do have a responsibility their viewers. If President Bush felt that he truly was going to give new (actual) evidence to the American people regarding Iraq, instead of the same tired rhetoric and innuendo, then he would have demanded the airtime. President Bush failed in that respect.

In response to Junk Science:

Kevin Walker writes:

I would suggest that the only reason that the gun ban lobby is interested in this topic is that, to be seen as effective, it will require the registration of every gun and gun owner. It's that simple. Registration is necessary to have effective confiscation, which is the ultimate stated goal of the gun ban lobby. Of course, as you pointed out, criminals will be able to alter the gun if they choose to do so and avoid detection. Since most guns used in crime are stolen or otherwise illegally obtained, I believe ballistic fingerprinting will continue to show the same results we see now, zero impact on catching criminals.

John Anderlie writes:

I'm certainly no expert on firearms, but I could change the barrel, firing pin and case extractor out of a GI .45 automatic in less than two minutes, completely changing the fingerprints on that firearm.  And I can buy all these parts without any kind of background check, because these parts are not "firearms," hence they have no serial number or registration requirement by the ATF. The same can be done with several other firearms without any problem whatsoever. The Beltway Sniper probably has plenty of spare parts to keep the ballistics experts off balance.

G. Ray Johnson writes:

It seem you have a clear view of what the anti-gun lobby is interested in: total elimination of the ownership of guns. Why can't examples of Australia's stunning rise in crime after guns were banned be taken into consideration? I would like to see a definitive study done regarding this increase in home invasions extrapolated to what would happen if the same gun laws were applied to the U.S. I think everyone would be shocked to find out that the criminal element in this country would like to have a safer work environment than Mr. Shumer and Ms. Brady would provide.