- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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May 28

The Sun Herald on gun control in the state:

Welcome to the Wild West.

There have been shootouts at Mardi Gras parades, where hundreds scattered as gunfire erupted on a Pass Christian street. Bullets were sprayed into a crowd at Barber College in Waveland. A man was shot and killed outside a home in a densely populated subdivision in Harrison County.

There have been several shootings in the streets.

Teens shooting teens.

Family members shooting family members.

Shootings in parking lots.

So many shootings this year, they have become a blur.

On Tuesday’s front page, half the stories were about shootings. A woman is accused of shooting her estranged husband while he held their child.

A bystander was wounded at a gas station in the heart of Gulfport.

“This is not Gulfport,” Police Chief Leonard Papania said in March as gun violence soared.

It once wasn’t Gulfport, but now it is. It is the city where a middle school student is accused of bringing a loaded handgun and 100 rounds of ammo to school.

And it’s Long Beach - where the woman stands accused of shooting her husband.

It’s Harrison County - where a man was killed and another wounded in Crown Hill, a subdivision where the shots could have just as easily hit a neighbor or passer-by.

And it’s Biloxi - where a woman told police she saw a man get a gun from his car and open fire outside the Mississippi Coast Coliseum after the Biloxi High School graduation Tuesday evening.

We don’t want to take firearms from responsible gun owners, but it’s hard to imagine any of these people fit that description.

Papania said he and the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police tried to give the Legislature advice on gun bills this year.

“For some reason, the input of law enforcement is not solicited and when we do reach out, we’re not getting a response,” he said.

So now we have a law that increases the number of people carrying guns without a permit.

Police in other states with similar laws say they have come across people daring anyone to call police and challenge their right to carry guns near schools and libraries.

“Do you want every incident on your street to escalate into acts of gun violence?” Papania said in a New York Times article that was reprinted in the Sun Herald.

Police told the Times the new laws, such as Mississippi’s, undermine their ability to train people to handle firearms and to keep guns out of the hands of violent people.

“What is alarming to the police is that they have no power to ascertain the potential criminal background of an armed individual until a crime is committed, and by then it is too late,” said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an advocacy group.

It is time lawmakers gave our police officers the same consideration the Legislature and state leaders give the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups.

We should be able to pump gas, or watch a loved one graduate, without constantly looking over our shoulders.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

Online: http://www.sunherald.com/

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May 29

The Oxford Eagle on avoiding summer bugs:

The first human case of West Nile Virus has arrived in Mississippi.

Last year the Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed 38 West Nile sicknesses and one death.

This year’s first reported case is in Lamar County. While that’s not terribly close to Lafayette County, that means mosquitoes that are carrying the virus are here and biting.

Now that the weather is nice and people are out and about mowing yards, preparing flower beds, having cookouts with friends or just sitting outside enjoying the fresh air, everyone needs to take precautions.

It’s especially alarming that we already have a case even though it isn’t quite peak season.

“While WNV can occur any time of the year, we see the bulk of our cases during peak season, which is July through September,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “Now that school is out and the weather is warm, it is time to be extremely vigilant when going outdoors.”

The health department recommends removing standing water on your property, using a mosquito repellent that contains DEET and wearing loose, light clothing when outdoors. Above all, avoid areas where you already know the blood-suckers are present.

Online: http://www.oxfordeagle.com/

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May 30

The Hattiesburg American on bathroom policies in the state:

The “bathroom debate” is alive and well in Mississippi.

Last week, the state Board of Education voted unanimously to “support the position of the state leadership” and ignore a federal directive to schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms with which they identify.

The vote came after Carey Wright, the state school superintendent, changed her decision on the issue under pressure from Gov. Phil Bryant and state lawmakers - including calls to fire her - after earlier issuing a statement that the Mississippi Department of Education would follow a directive from the federal Justice and Education departments to allow transgender students to use bathrooms for the gender with which they identify.

DOJ has threatened to withhold federal education money from states that don’t comply. That could be bad for Mississippi, which receives $783 million in federal funds for K-12 education for the current year, and about $2.5 billion in state funds.

Bryant calls the federal directives “outrageous” and an overreach by the Obama administration that does not carry the weight of law. On Thursday, he announced the state is joining a lawsuit with Texas and 10 other states over the directives.

State Attorney General Jim Hood said he disagrees with Bryant’s actions and that only the attorney general can represent the state in such litigation. Bryant’s lawsuit will be “in his capacity as governor alone,” Hood said. His office joined a federal lawsuit in Virginia last year to stop federal interference with local schools’ bathroom policies, so he chose not to join the Texas suit.

“I cannot lend the name of the state of Mississippi to this lawsuit,” Hood said in a written statement. “I strongly encourage our state leaders to shift their focus to issues that are directly impacting our citizens every day, such as education, mental health, roads and bridges, and public safety.”

While some, like Hood, see this as a non-issue, others see it as a public safety issue. They fear that if transgender people - specifically, men who identify as women - are allowed to use the ladies room, it will result in girls and women being sexually assaulted by predators claiming they now have the right to use the ladies room.

“In the 41 years I have been in law enforcement in South Carolina, I have never heard of a transgender person attacking or otherwise bothering someone in a restroom,” Sheriff Leon Lott of South Carolina’s Richland County wrote in a letter to the committee studying his state’s bathroom bill. “This is a non-issue.”

Others just don’t believe men and women should have to share restrooms.

Local school districts should continue to handle the restroom issue on a case-by-case basis. That seems to be working.

These laws don’t make public restrooms safer for anyone - predators don’t wait for permission to lurk in restrooms - but they do stigmatize and possibly put at risk for violence a minority that already faces discrimination and misunderstanding, and that’s just not right.

We oppose discrimination, but we understand the fear some feel about this issue. There are no easy answers.

Bathroom privacy and safety are something we all value. On that, at least, perhaps we can agree.

Online: http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/

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