January 31

Regarding the Jan. 28 front-page article “Mall shooter gave no hint of what was to come”:

Here is a young man, polite and presentable, and yet he kills. He has a gun in his backpack. What is the difference between him and another polite young man I encountered?

Last week, I saw with my own eyes a gun sticking out of the latter’s backpack, and I was scared. It happened inside the Virginia Capitol in Richmond, where I went with others to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and to talk to delegates and senators about the importance of background checks for gun purchases, banning the firing of guns in celebration and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

We were shocked to find that firearms were permitted inside the building. Why, then, the masquerade of going through security, being frisked and wanded and having our bags X-rayed? Even young mothers carrying babies were wanded. Ironically, during the celebration outside the Capitol, police told people holding a flag or a sign on a short stick to surrender their sticks “because they can be used as weapons.”

Even more ironically, that morning, on the same spot, a group of gun-rights advocates gathered for their own celebration, most of them visibly carrying guns. Yet the police found that behavior perfectly acceptable. Sometimes life in Virginia is stranger than fiction.

Cecile Heatley, McLean

The writer is a member of Concerned Citizens Against Gun Violence.