According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people were killed in alcohol related crashes -- an average of one almost every half-hour in 2005.
After the death of our daughter Mary Lee, Frances and I have been very active in The Compassionate Friends. The Compassionate Friends is a support group for families grieving the death of a child of any age from any cause. I am the chapter leader of the Knoxville Hope Chapter and Frances works in outreach. Our ministry basically covers central East Tennessee.

Central East Tennessee sure has its share of alcohol related traffic fatalities. Many people will celebrate this Christmas all across our nation with loved ones missing because of alcohol fatalities.

In our ministry in the compassionate friends we're seeing an increase of young people being murdered and most of the time alcohol is involved. The suicide rate seems to be more and more among young people and as a general rule alcohol or drugs is involved.

In your wildest imagination you can't begin to imagine the shattered lives, broken hearts and intense grief we have witnessed. I have seen the names of several people that we consider to be our friends that have signed the petition for liquor stores. I believe if each of them would have just attended one compassionate friends meeting with us their names would not be on the petition.

I have never tried to force anyone to not drink. God created mankind with freedom of choice. However, we should never be free from the consequences of our choices. We all need to take a look at the murder on our highways where completely innocent people are slaughtered by social drinkers. The consequences would be great if it was anything other than alcohol. An intoxicated person loses control of his physical and mental powers. He ceases to be a responsible person.

The story is familiar -- -- he crossed into their lane and hit them head on. He was a repeat offender with no license. Oh, he had three convictions for driving under the influence this past year. It is an evident fact that the police, prosecutors, and probation officers can't keep them sober as much as they would like to. Neither can they keep them off the road.

The laws of Tennessee or the enforcement thereof is sick. It's absolutely devastating to some family almost every half hour. Barred from driving, by some judge, means absolutely nothing to repeat offenders. That doesn't keep them from getting behind the wheel. Behind bars is the only answer. We hear all the big talk about the tax money that liquor will bring in to our cities and counties, but still hear the authorities say "We just don't have enough jails to hold all the people who drink and drive". Why on earth does Tennessee's DUI laws, allow such things as probation and community service to take the place of jail time? Of course if you are a drunk powerful politician you can do most anything and say you are sorry and run to alcohol rehab and that's the end of it.

Things will never change until society decides to do something about it. Mass murderers will continue being turned loose on our highways. They should not have the right to infringe on our freedom.

Alcohol is a moral issue. There was a day when the church spoke with a loud, clear voice against the evil of alcohol. Now moral issues are called politics by many of our pastors and other religious leaders. Murder now by drunk drivers has just become a part of our lives and we are to graciously accept it. Who is to blame? The answer is, people who support this murderous traffic by their vote.

Please vote no to liquor stores in our cities.

Ted Wampler