- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Rutland (Vt.) Herald, Feb. 4, 2014

So shocking was the shooting that snuffed out the lives of 20 elementary school children and six adult educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 that many - we would hope most - Americans surely believed the time had come, finally, to do something about gun violence in this country, especially in schools.

Some steps have been taken, but the gun violence continues. A new Associated Press analysis shows that there have been at least 11 school shootings this academic year alone, not counting other cases of gun violence in parking lots and elsewhere on campus when classes were not in session.

There have been about 500 school-associated violent deaths in the past two decades, according to Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center.

These numbers don’t include recent incidents on American college and university campuses (not to mention gun violence in movie theaters and shopping malls). Last week, a man was shot and critically wounded at a community college in Florida and there were fatal shootings on campuses in South Carolina and Indiana.

It’s almost as if the American public has come to expect to read about a shooting incident every week, if not every day, and many of them involve students in either public schools or on college campuses.

Bill Bond was the principal at a Kentucky high school in 1997, when a 14-year-old freshman fired on a prayer group, killing three female students and wounding five. The one similarity between that shooting and more recent ones, he said, is that the shooters are males confronting hopelessness.

“You see troubled young men who are desperate and they strike out and they don’t see that they have any hope,” Bond told The Associated Press.

Jack Levin, co-director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, agreed that most violent gun crimes are committed by young men. He described the gun violence as a “masculine pursuit.”

Levin also points out that the United States isn’t the only nation with a high rate of gun ownership. What’s different is that other countries with similar gun ownership rates have extremely low homicide rates.

“Canada and Switzerland, for example, have high rates of gun ownership yet very low homicide rates,” he observed. “We also lead the industrialized world in the number of non-gun-related homicide deaths, so guns alone don’t explain the problem of violence in the United States.”

Levin blames “a culture of violence, especially in rural Southern states, where even a challenge to one’s dignity or honor is enough to get you killed. It’s not only acceptable but it is socially approved to respond with a gun. This cultural factor goes back centuries to the days of the Wild West.”

That culture leads to violence being seen as American as apple pie and Jesse James, he added.

He may be right. But shouldn’t a safe educational environment for America’s school children be an “apple pie” virtue, too?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that schools are doing a “fantastic” job with school security. In fact, he said, often schools are the safest place in a community.

However, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, wants more emphasis placed on improving school culture by providing resources for counselors, social workers and after-care programs. Many programs of that kind were scaled back during budget cuts of recent years.

Congress recently voted to allocate $140 million to support safe school environments, and that’s all to the good. But it will take more than money to change the culture Levin identified.

The Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, Feb. 5, 2014

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is mapping the entire coastline of the United States with the intention of updating its outdated floodplain maps - an effort to which everyone from homeowners to business owners to municipalities in the Seacoast would do well to pay rapt attention. Not only could thousands of people find themselves in a floodplain district for the first time, many could face paying expensive insurance premiums or making decisions to raise their homes above the flood elevation. The ramifications for this area are many and significant.

While New Hampshire must wait until at least the end of the month for the FEMA preliminary maps to be released, towns would do well to look at what is happening across the river in York County, Maine. In 2009, FEMA redrew floodplain maps in York and Cumberland counties. Seven municipalities challenged FEMA’s assumptions, and implementation was eventually halted. FEMA subsequently adopted the maps submitted by those towns - including Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. But when the new preliminary maps came out in 2013, they differed from the 2009 maps in several ways - including flood elevation, and wave runup and setup, two ways FEMA determines how far onto land waves will intrude. This has left other towns in the county shaking their heads at the inequality of the situation.

“There is a concern that there is unequal levels of risk,” said Robert Gerber, a geologist and senior engineer at Ransom Consulting in Portland, hired by those seven towns in 2009. Municipalities are lining up now to hire Gerber to review their data - including Kittery and Wells, Maine. In Wells, FEMA mapping indicates flooding into its marsh and harbor area, where the bulk of the 60 new properties identified as now in the floodplain are located. In Kittery, significant parts of Gerrish Island and inland as far as Norton Road past that town’s own natural wetlands area are affected. In York, the entire length of Railroad Avenue in York Beach will be affected.

“We have no idea what they’ve taken into consideration. They’re FEMA,” said York Community Development Director Steve Burns. “They’re obligated to do a good job. So why are all these towns hiring engineers?”

And, we might add, spending tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to examine maps that taxpayer-funded FEMA should have at the very least been consistent about implementing.

We applaud Maine Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree for both fighting hard for Mainers on this issue. They have written letters to FEMA’s director, urging him to allow towns and cities to submit their own reports about the floodplain maps. King filed a bill that would allow communities to be reimbursed by the government for the costs of successfully appealing inaccurate flood maps. This past week, a bill supported by King and passed by the Senate would delay implementation of insurance premium increases for four years.

The fact is, the floodplain maps need to be revamped. The fact is, FEMA is broke and needs respite from subsidizing insurance premiums on houses in high-risk areas. The fact is, climate change is going to lead to rising sea levels in the future that make changes to floodplain maps inevitable. But FEMA must be even-handed, fair and equitable as it works to remap our coastal communities. And residents and municipalities ignore this work at their significant risk.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide