- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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July 13

The Charleston Gazette-Mail on gun control:

Gun-polluted America seems to be splitting into two camps: Progressive states are imposing controls on pistols and mass-murder assault weapons. Conservative states are swinging toward wide-open armament.

Despite 30,000 gun deaths per year (including suicides) - a rate vastly worse than in other democracies - right-wingers in Congress still cower before the all-powerful gun lobby and refuse to pass any safety laws.

However, Bloomberg News commented:

“As Congress continues to stymie gun-safety proposals, individual states have been taking aggressive action on their own. . California recently banned the sale of certain semiautomatic rifles, outlawed the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets and mandated background checks for ammunition purchases. Hawaii - which already bans some semiautomatic handguns and large-capacity magazines, and registers virtually all guns - added ‘harassment by stalking and sexual assault’ to the list of offenses that disqualify one from gun possession.”

Bloomberg says those progressive state laws actually reduce gun slaughter.

In contrast, conservative places like West Virginia move in the opposite direction, letting more deadly guns saturate daily life. The Republican-led Legislature overrode a veto this year to let virtually any Mountain State resident - stable or not - carry a hidden pistol without a permit or safety training. Texas now allows guns on college campuses. Georgia approves them in bars and churches.

Gun massacres - like the sniper attack on police in Dallas or the slaughter at an Orlando gay club - never seem to teach the nation a lesson. Nothing changes in Washington. But it’s hopeful that Democrat-dominated states are starting to act on their own.

The 2012 Democratic Party platform cites “the terrible consequences of gun violence” and pledges “to enact commonsense improvements - like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole - so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, lawbreaking few.”

In contrast, the 2012 GOP platform doesn’t mention gun massacres, but pledges to “support and defend the law-abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense.” In other words, the official Republican position is that God authorized Americans to arm themselves with mass-killing instruments.

As a result, red and blue states may align into two camps, one with gun safety protections, one without.

Online:

https://www.wvgazettemail.com

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July 13

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register on Boone County schools:

Boone County Board of Education members’ concern for school employees is understandable and, to an extent, commendable. But times have suddenly become tough in that county and elsewhere in West Virginia’s southern coalfields - and that may require decisions more difficult than board members have been willing to make.

Through no fault of their own, Boone County residents have been hit hard by coal company bankruptcies. One estimate is that nearly one-fifth of the property tax revenue that supports schools in the county has been erased.

Every school system in the state is required to submit a balanced budget to the West Virginia Department of Education. Boone County school officials have not done that. As a result, it is possible the state Board of Education will vote this week to take away control of the school system from the county board.

County officials already have closed three schools and laid off 80 employees. More - perhaps including pay cuts and additional layoffs - is needed to balance the budget.

Though teacher salaries in Boone County reportedly are the second-highest in the state, county board members have been unwilling to reduce them.

Still, taking control of a school system away from local officials is a drastic step, especially given the suddenness with which Boone County’s fiscal crisis hit. State board members should give the county more time - but no more than a month - to get its house in order before taking that step.

Online:

https://www.theintelligencer.net

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July 7

The Journal on national parks in the state:

Our national parks have been described as “America’s best idea.” The nation’s founders, who established a government based on liberty and with guarantees of it, might argue with that.

But the parks are a wonderful thing, perhaps unique in the world. They preserve valuable, beautiful natural and historic sites and make them accessible to Americans, usually at no cost.

Though the system got its start in 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant declared Yellowstone to be the first national park, it was not until 1916 that the National Park Service was established. The agency is celebrating its 100th birthday this summer.

More than 84 million acres at 411 sites in every state and the District of Columbia are managed by the NPS.

Here in West Virginia, several natural and historic areas are overseen by the NPS. Perhaps the best-known is our very own Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Visitors from other countries often marvel at America’s parks, especially because they are set aside for the use of everyone.

But merely establishing a park is only the first step. Preserving it is critical - and in that, we Americans sometimes have not done especially well. Many national parks have lengthy maintenance backlogs.

Ensuring that needed funding is available for the parks - and is being spent efficiently - is important. It ought to be a top priority in Congress, so that 100 years from now, our national parks still will be considered America’s best idea.

Online:

https://journal-news.net


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