America needs a good discussion, not seemingly inevitable political posturing.
The issue is gun violence, and the catalyst is the school shootings in December that led to the deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama urged Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Most of the measures, as The Associated Press reported, are opposed by the National Rifle Association and face a doubtful future in a divided Congress where Republicans control the House.
Obama also signed 23 executive actions, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research on gun violence. Other steps Obama took include ordering tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks, requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations, and ordering a review of safety standards for gun locks and gun safes.
The president’s proposals also include a $150 million request to Congress that would allow schools to hire 1,000 new police officers, counselors and psychologists. The White House plan also includes legislative and executive action to increase mental health services, including boosting funding for training aimed at getting young people into treatment more quickly.
Pro-gun forces, the AP reported, have long suggested that violent images in video games and entertainment are more to blame for mass shootings than the availability of guns. Obama’s proposal calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research links between violent images and gun attacks.
“The president today announced a strong, comprehensive plan to protect our citizens from gun violence,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a statement released Wednesday. “In West Virginia, we have a proud tradition of hunting and understand the importance of the Second Amendment. We can protect those traditions and rights as we look at ways to prevent senseless acts of violence.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., noted that “I am disappointed that the president did not recommend the creation of the national commission on mass violence that I have proposed. A national commission can build the consensus we need for real action backed not only by gun-control advocates, mental health experts and entertainment industry executives but also by law-abiding gun owners who fully understand the history and heritage of firearms in America. Violence destroys the dignity, hopes and lives of millions of Americans, and we have a unique opportunity to stop this epidemic – but only if we can put politics aside and have an honest and effective conversation about what to do about our culture of mass violence.”
A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows just how difficult building consensus on the gun issue will be.
Some 58 percent favor strengthening gun laws in the United States. Just 5 percent felt such laws should be loosened, while 35 percent said they should be left unchanged.
Specifically, majorities in the new poll favored a nationwide ban on military-style, rapid-fire guns (55 percent) and limits on the amount and type of gun violence that can be portrayed in video games, movies or on television (54 percent). About half (51 percent) of those surveyed back a ban on the sale of magazines holding 10 or more bullets.
A lopsided 84 percent of adults would like to see the establishment of a federal standard for background checks for people buying guns at gun shows. At the same time 51 percent said that they believed laws limiting gun ownership infringe on the public’s Second Amendment right to possess and carry firearms. Among Republicans, 75 percent cited such infringement.
Most Democrats (76 percent) and independents (60 percent) back stricter gun laws, while a majority of Republicans (53 percent) want gun laws left alone.
Obama conceded that “the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.”
We need a national conversation where real, workable ideas are presented, and we understand that law-abiding people indeed have a right to have guns and confront the enormous difficulty of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t legally have them.
In the best of circumstances, building consensus will be a monumental challenge. In an all-out political confrontation, it will be virtually impossible.
America needs a good discussion, not seemingly inevitable political posturing.
Laws to keep mudslinging to minimum can stife free speech
By nature, and by profession, we do not like lies. As journalists, we’re truth tellers. Or at least we attempt to get at the truth through research, attribution, documents and comments from people on either side of an issue.
Sometimes it ends up with “telling lies from both sides,” as a crusty reporter once mused a handful of years ago.
COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay
Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.
The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings
During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
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