Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Don’t exploit terror for
political influence

The issue: Gun-control advocates say
a loophole allows international terrorists
to buy firearms in the United States


NO gun was used in the September 11 terrorist attack on America, but that has not prevented a new round of debate about gun control. Advocates of strict gun control are citing terrorism as a reason for tightening gun laws, while the National Rifle Association cries foul. Congress should close a loophole in gun-control laws, but not because of terrorism.

The gun-control advocates aren't the only ones trying to capitalize on the terrorist attacks. The House-passed economic stimulus bill is laden with ornaments benefiting business interests, while Senate Democrats seek instead to give assistance to labor. Little is new except the vehicle for providing favors to interest groups.

The NRA has refrained from trying to exploit the terrorist attack. Its relative silence may be explained less by decorum than by cognizance of a surge in firearms purchases in the past two months. The gun purchases probably reflect a new uneasiness among Americans, despite the lack of any indication that terrorists include firearms in their weaponry.

On the contrary, a jury in Detroit convicted Ali Boumelhem, of the terrorist group Hezbollah, of conspiring to smuggle guns and ammunition from the United States to Lebanon. The FBI had seen Boumelhem buying guns at a gun show in Michigan. Last year, an alleged member of the Irish Republican Army testified in federal court that he had gone to Florida to buy guns at gun shows to smuggle to Northern Ireland.

Americans for Gun Safety recently bought ads in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, calling for "fighting terrorists around the world" by closing a loophole that allows people to buy guns from unlicensed private sellers at gun shows without being subjected to background checks. "It's time to recognize the new threats we face. It's time to close the gun show loophole," said the ad, dominated by a photo of sailors hoisting an American flag.

NRA lobbyist James Baker called the gun-control proponents' ad "a fairly crass attempt to bootstrap their agenda on the tragedy of Sept. 11." The terrorist plane hijackers used box cutters, he pointed out, "and I don't see anyone talking about closing True Value hardware stores." The NRA can take the high road with the knowledge that its interests are protected by Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Hawaii requires background checks of all gun purchases but is vulnerable to criminals who may bring their weapons from the mainland. The gun-show loopholes in federal law should be closed because of the threat of common criminals, not international terrorists.

Macy’s evolves to fit
Hawaii’s retail scene

The issue: The department store chain
gets ready to do business in the islands.

Macy's enters the Hawaii marketplace apparently mindful of the legacy it inherits as it assumes ownership and management of the Liberty House department stores. In homage to Liberty House's venerated retail history, Macy's has incorporated into its new credit cards LH's signature hibiscus motif that many customers will recognize.

The design is an indication that Macy's will pay heed to the value of Liberty House's loyal consumers and remain attuned to the way it did business with them. That the logo was created by "local girl" Carrie Furukawa Laurent, a Maui High School graduate whose family lives on the Valley Isle, speaks to a sensitivity about the community in which Macy's will be operating.

Although it had lost some of its luster over the years, Liberty House had been for decades THE store at which to shop. Clothing for important occasions -- proms, weddings, New Year's celebrations -- was purchased at Liberty House. Gifts were all the more special if it came in the familiar Liberty House box, so much so that it became a practice for some to save the boxes to disguise merchandise from other stores. LH's return policy was a major selling point. Exchange of an item, even after months -- sometimes years -- of use, was done without question or unpleasantness.

When Liberty House adjusted its sales toward big-spending tourists in the early 1990s, it lost touch with its core of Hawaii customers. Then when the Asian financial crisis cut the number of visitors and other high-end designer boutiques arrived on the retail scene, it remade itself, shedding resort stores and turning again to its local market. It could not recoup, declaring bankruptcy in 1998.

So in steps Macy's. It will open officially the day after Thanksgiving, astutely with traditional Hawaiian blessings, maile lei and entertainment. For the first time, its stores' shelves and racks will hold local merchandise along with national brands.

Macy's officials seem to have grasped an understanding that doing business in Hawaii requires an accommodation to a rhythm and mood not like their operations elsewhere. With a name that carries a brawny retail heritage itself, Macy's should not find it difficult to tote along one that has been part of Hawaii since 1849 when Heinrich Hackfield opened a dry goods store on Queen Street.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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