- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Norman Transcript, Aug. 5, 2014

DNA from the accused

A planned Oklahoma legislative study on requiring persons accused of crimes to submit DNA samples has its roots in a brutal Norman rape and murder nearly 20 years ago. Lawmakers used the Jewel “Juli” Busken case from Dec. 20, 1996, as evidence of the need for more DNA samples in law enforcement’s database.

Busken, a ballet student at OU, was raped and murdered in December 1996. Her case went unsolved until 2004 when forensic examiners matched DNA from semen stains found on her clothing with Anthony Castillo Sanchez, a convicted burglar who was serving time in a state prison.

Sanchez was convicted in Busken’s murder in 2006 and a Cleveland County jury sentenced him to death. State Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, told the Associated Press, that having more DNA in the database would shorten such investigations.

The Associated Press reports 28 states and the federal government allow taking DNA samples from some defendants accused of crimes. Previous attempts to expand the database in Oklahoma have been turned away after legislators expressed concern about the constitutionality of targeting suspects who have not been found guilty.

Another big concern is what to do with the DNA samples if a person is found innocent or charges are dropped. Rep. Denney said that DNA should not be kept in the state’s database, but civil liberties lawyers say that’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle.

We look for a spirited discussion of the issue in coming months.


The Oklahoman, Aug. 5

BAD ideas live forever at the state Capitol. Such is the case with renewed interest in allowing concealed weapons on Oklahoma’s college campuses.

“Placing guns on campus, except in the hands of highly trained law enforcement officers and professionals, would be a serious mistake and would lead only to tragic results,” OU President David Boren said recently. The Oklahoman archives SARAH PHIPPS - SARAH PHIPPS Higher education leaders have vehemently and consistently opposed this idea. So has The Oklahoman. Far be it from lawmakers to take no for an answer.

Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, are leading an interim study on the issue. They say the state needs to look at “the facts” and at best practices for allowing concealed weapons on campus. We can’t help but wonder why the fact that the higher education community is united in its opposition to this idea is completely ignored.

“Placing guns on campus, except in the hands of highly trained law enforcement officers and professionals, would be a serious mistake and would lead only to tragic results,” University of Oklahoma President David Boren said recently. “To put our university students, faculty and staff at risk in this way makes absolutely no sense.”

We suggest Griffin follow her own advice about dealing in facts rather than fear when it comes to concealed weapons on campus. College campuses aren’t inherently dangerous places. Much of the danger that does exist links to the fact that young adults enjoying newfound freedom don’t always make wise choices.

Campus safety is an important issue for families of college students. But trying to scare people into believing college campuses are dangerous places in need of armed faculty and students is disingenuous. Even living in a gun-loving state such as Oklahoma, we seriously doubt that the idea of allowing concealed weapons permit holders to bring their weapons on campus would bring families much peace. In fact, we suspect it would do the opposite.

As we’ve noted many times before, if campus security or police officers are faced with a gunman on campus, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether the gunman is the good guy or the bad guy. As recently as April, the state’s higher education campus safety and security task force passed a resolution opposing any changes with regard to the current ban on concealed weapons on campus.

As for the idea that Oklahoma needs to look at best practices, we can get on board with that. The vast majority of college campuses in the United States are gun-free zones. Only seven states allow concealed weapons on higher education campuses. To act as though Oklahoma needs to catch up with its counterparts across the nation is a weak argument.

Like so many ideas that emanate perennially from the state Capitol, this one is a waste of time and energy. If lawmakers are genuinely worried about campus safety, they could turn their attention to truly preventive campus safety efforts, making sure schools have adequately staffed campus security operations. They could support the expansion of mental health services on campuses.

The fact is, there’s inadequate evidence to justify such a drastic change for the state’s higher education campuses. Unfortunately, that’s often not enough to sway determined and well-meaning but misguided lawmakers. Higher education can’t let its guard down on this issue.

It won’t be put to rest any time soon.


The Journal Record, Aug. 4

Editorial: Oklahoma’s time to shine

It’s time for Oklahoma to shed its inferiority complex.

Monday’s New York Times included a story about people leaving the hip cities on the coasts as they discover that owning a 2,500-square-foot house can be a lot cooler than renting a 600-square-foot studio apartment for the same price.

“Newcomers in Oklahoma City have traded traffic jams and preschool waiting lists for master suites the size of their old apartments,” the story said.

Florida filmmaker Seamus Payne is making a series of short documentaries about cool destinations; his first is a 36-minute film about Oklahoma City, which he selected after reading national media reports about the projects underway. He was particularly impressed with the Boathouse District, the Plaza District and the Thunder.

Oklahoma City recently ranked ninth on CNN’s list of fastest-growing U.S. cities, although it didn’t crack the top 20 on this year’s Forbes list. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area was the 39th fastest-growing area of 50,000 people or more at 1.7 percent; the Tulsa MSA was 113th of 381 with 1-percent population growth.

No matter the ranking, the point of Payne’s film and the New York Times story suggests a sea change in how the country thinks about Oklahoma, which last showed up on a list of cool places, we suspect, when the government was giving away the land.

Now, Oklahoma is cool. Thank Clay Bennett and the group that brought the Thunder from Seattle or Ron No rick and the chamber of commerce for the first MAPS vote. Thank riverboats or kayaks or rowing clubs, thank artists and architects city planners. Give credit wherever you like, 20 years ago no one would have imagined that Oklahoma would be showing up on anyone’s list of cool places or that millennial would be happily leaving beaches for real estate they can afford.

Now that the coasts have the message, Oklahomans need to hear it too. Too often locals start a sentence with a phrase such as, “Well, we know it’s not New York, but ..”

It’s not New York. It’s not California, or Florida or Texas, either. It’s no one’s younger brother, no state’s second cousin. Oklahoma stands on its own, proudly, unapologetically. And Oklahomans must alter their language to shed the inferiority-laced comparisons.

Oklahomans must start saying, “This is my state. Here’s why it’s cool.”


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