In his column about imprisoned actor Robert Downey Jr. [op-ed, Aug. 10], Richard Cohen states that "most hard-core users are poor, often minority group members." This is untrue. Statistics available from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that addiction slices evenly through all socioeconomic strata. The primary difference is that minorities and the poor are far more likely to be incarcerated for drug-law violations, because they are less able to afford skilled lawyers. Like Cohen, I fail to see the logic in incarcerating people for using drugs. I also fail to see the logic in maintaining the pervasive black market created by our failed prohibitionist policies. Savage penalties for drug dealers have given us the world's highest incarceration rate without reducing supply or demand for drugs.

-- Patrick Froehlich

It is a common complaint among those opposed to further gun-control measures that the current laws are not well enforced. Those on the left ignore this fact and constantly call for more gun laws whenever a tragedy strikes.

It's a pity, then, that Richard Cohen focuses on what a "nice guy" in need of drug treatment Robert Downey Jr. seems to be, while ignoring the weapons charges against him.

Reports of his most recent arrest -- which has led to a three-year prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation -- included the fact that he had a loaded weapon along with heroin in his car with him. Cohen would leave Downey in treatment, which he has repeatedly failed, and unwittingly wait for him to mix drugs and guns more toxicly.

Sadly, perhaps it is time Downey thought about his actions in jail. Maybe it's also time Cohen and other gun-control advocates thought about the consequences of ignoring the gun laws we already have. In Downey's case, at least the laws have succeeded -- for now.

-- Jeffrey Heinzmann