To the editor:

I was amazed at the July 15 article in The Salem News titled “U.S. opioid deaths hit record 93,000 during last year.”

Amazed for a number of reasons:

-- About a month ago or so in Essex County, a person was convicted of being a major distributer of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. He was tied in to being possibly responsible, by the sale of these contaminated drugs, for the possible deaths of local citizens.

-- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 93,000 deaths translate to an average of more than 250 deaths every day, or roughly 11 deaths every hour. The person that I am speaking about who was arrested and convicted received a sentence of four years in jail. He was driving a very expensive car, had several guns on him and at home and police found several thousands of dollars on him and at home. The punishment hardly fit the crime, and yet this seems to be the norm for convicted drug dealers. What is the deterrent? How is this a lesson to discourage our younger generation from following in their footsteps? Easy money

-- Why doesn’t every newspaper article, when referring to guns used in the commission of a crime, indicate if those were registered guns, unmarked, stolen or obtained by any other means? In this day and age, removing all guns licensed, registered or not, seems to be the cure-all for diminishing the amount of deaths by guns in this country.

-- Gun violence and gun crime has, in particular, risen drastically, with more than 19,000 people killed in shootings and firearm-related incidents in 2020. That’s the highest death toll in more than 20 years, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, an online site that collects gun violence data, and the Britannia Group’s non-partisan site procon.org.

-- By comparison, 19,000 deaths by gun is far less than 93,000 deaths caused by fentanyl and other drugs.

-- A conviction for first-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years in state prison. If the murder is judged to be a hate crime — a crime based on the victim’s religion, race, gender, disability or sexual orientation — the defendant can face life in prison without parole.

This is my question: Why is there such a disparity in the law, relating to death by guns and death by drugs, when both crimes were the cause of death?

I am most certain that our judges are determining sentences as prescribed by the laws of this country and states. That being the case, it is time to change these outdated laws so they are a deterrent and help diminish this valuable loss of life year after year. Unless something changes, these unfortunate statistics will continue to grow and many more valuable lives will be lost.

Joseph R. Ingemi Jr.

Salem

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