- Associated Press - Monday, October 23, 2017

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Oct. 20

The research is clear: Waiting periods can curb gun deaths

It’s no secret this country is extraordinarily divided on the issue of gun rights, and common ground has been hard to come by. That’s why it’s heartening to see fact-based evidence of a law that has produced results in curbing gun deaths without infringing on the rights of lawful owners to purchase weapons.

A new and rigorous study by Harvard Business Research shows that states with gun-purchase waiting periods consistently show 17 percent fewer gun homicides than states without such laws, saving 750 lives a year nationwide. Researchers project that a nationwide waiting period could save another 900 lives annually.

The findings come from a rigorous analysis of 45 years of data on every change to state and local waiting periods between 1970 and 2014. The results, researchers said, confirmed “a large and robust effect of waiting periods on homicides.” Findings on suicides were less consistent, but showed between 7 percent and 11 percent fewer gun suicides than in states without waiting periods. That could save a substantial number of lives, given that about half the suicides in the U.S. are caused by firearms, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

What exists now is a hodgepodge of state regulations. California requires 10 days for all firearms purchases. Minnesota has a weeklong waiting period on handguns and assault-style rifles unless the weapon is bought through a private sale or the buyer already has a permit.

A waiting period won’t prevent all gun deaths, but researchers found that gun deaths resulting from impulsive emotion can be reduced through such measures. “Visceral factors, such as anger or suicidal impulses, can spur people to inflict harm on others or themselves, but tend to be transitory states,” the study noted, with a cooling-off period of as few as 48 hours producing noticeable reductions in gun deaths. The study drew on another set of data: The four years in which the U.S. did have a nationwide waiting period, replaced in 1998 by the current system of instant background checks. Researchers found the same 17 percent drop. Background checks have their own merits, but some are done in minutes. Having both waiting periods and background checks makes more sense.

Gun owners may find a waiting period irksome, but it is a minor inconvenience weighed against lives saved. No one qualified to own a gun is denied one. The wait is, in most instances, not much more than for an Amazon delivery. Some states have exceptions for urgent situations, in which local law enforcement can authorize a bypass of the waiting period. That’s an important safeguard.

What’s remarkable about the Harvard study is that it exists at all. For 20 years a ban on federally funding research has suppressed reasonable, fact-based debate, allowing tribalistic hyperbole to dominate discussions. Guns kill tens of thousands annually in the U.S. and seriously injure thousands more. Yet this country is kept deliberately in the dark as to possible effective remedies.

Other experts agree with the Harvard findings. Christopher Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said his 20 years of study - including years with the New York Police Department - have convinced him that waiting periods are effective, particularly for workplace violence and domestic violence. “The guy who got fired, goes out, buys a gun and kills his boss and himself - that’s the kind who needs a cooling-off period,” Herrmann said. For domestic violence, he said, ready access to a gun can turn an assault into a homicide. “It’s a violence-reduction technique,” he said. “You are minimizing the opportunity individuals have to kill themselves or others.”

Harvard is to be commended for expending its own resources to provide factual evidence for what works. What is needed now is for Congress to act on it. Restore a national waiting period. Make it applicable to every gun purchase, including private sales. Not one individual in the United States will lose their right to own a gun because of it.

The public strongly supports waiting periods. As Herrmann noted, “They are easy to understand, tangible and practical.” There may be no better start to breaking the paralysis in this country on gun issues than a reasonable, nationwide waiting period.


Mankato Free Press, Oct. 19

College sports: Corruption a constant problem

The college basketball season opens in about a month, but the sport is embarrassing itself with regularity these days.

Last month 10 people, including four assistant coaches from such major universities as Southern California, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Auburn, were indicted in the first public salvo of a continuing federal investigation of bribery and corruption in recruiting.

While nobody from the University of Louisville was indicted, the document contained enough detail about that school that the university dismissed Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino. Pitino (father of the University of Minnesota’s coach, Richard Pitino) had survived a pair of sex scandals, but he couldn’t hang on to his job this time.

The expectation around the sport is that there will be more indictments, more charges, more big-name schools embarrassed, more big-name coaches suddenly unemployable.

The September indictments, and the ones expected to follow, highlight the hypocrisy of “amateur” sports so beloved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. There’s money to be had for everyone except the players.

They, say the NCAA, benefit from the college education they get in return for their athletic exploits.

That position lost considerable validity last week when the University of North Carolina escaped NCAA sanctions for rampant academic fraud with a unique defense: We have no academic standards to enforce.

Basketball and football players at UNC were for at least 18 years funneled to no-show “courses” that never met and involved “research papers” that were “graded” by a department secretary who barely glanced at the work. UNC spent $18 million to defend this and to sully the reputations of faculty who objected - and to protect the three basketball national championships won under Roy Williams.

North Carolina is supposedly one of the better public universities in the nation. But its eagerness to subvert its academic standards for athletic success is appalling. At least when the University of Minnesota’s academic fraud came to light some 17 years ago Minnesota had the good sense to be ashamed.

At the end of all this is a harsh reality: The NCAA, as an enforcer of its own rules, is useless. The big-name schools don’t want the rules enforced. They profit hugely from slipping a little illicit money to the athletes and ignoring the academics.

There is nothing there for the rest of us to cheer about.


Minnesota Daily, Oct. 16

Out-of-state tuition hike proposal should be approached with caution

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s proposal for consecutive 15 percent tuition increases for nonresidents would spell an almost $4,000 increase for nonresident, non-reciprocity (NRNR) students in the 2018-19 term and even more the following year. Although this steep change may happen over just two years, the Board of Regents cut NRNR tuition by about 30 percent in 2007, hoping to attract more out-of-state academic talent.

In 2017, University of Minnesota NRNR tuition still remains one of the lowest in the Big Ten Conference, while tuition for Minnesota residents is much higher than comparable Big Ten schools such as University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ohio State and the University of Iowa. Supporters for the tuition increase aim to balance the quality of a University education and the price tag. It is fair to compare the University of Minnesota to like universities in the Big Ten. The tuition difference between the University and other Big Ten institutions may indicate that a change needs to be made.

The increase would generate an extra $10 million next year alone. This is one of the benefits coming with Kaler’s proposal, which argues that we would spend some of the additional revenue on out-of-state recruiters to keep University diversity and tuition discounts for students. However, the need to increase tuition should not alienate any students who want to attend the University, yet are deterred by the price tag. This must be balanced properly.

The proposed tuition hike also poses a fundamental question in higher education. The debate concerns whether public and state universities primarily exist to serve the country or the students that live in the region. The proposal suggests to out-of-state students that in-state students are the main priority. We believe that though this may be fair philosophically, it greatly harms the ability of the University to improve national rankings as it fails to draw talent from throughout the country.

Furthermore, the proposal from Kaler is very steep. The end tuition would total about $35,000 in just two years. Such a decision could shock the system, leading to undesirable changes. It has been argued that the administration overestimates the brand of the University - that it is not as well known as they would like to think. The Regents should be careful of the decision to increase tuition. It is a challenging decision regardless and a tough thing to balance. Kaler has expressed interest in having the Board of Regents vote early so that it gives recruiters and students a chance to react before the increase happens. The Board should try to do this as they should not rush a decision that affects a large fraction of University students.

Unfortunately, tuition increases are often a necessary evil. A variety of factors, such as inflation and building renovations, can spike the cost of attending the University. However, it’s imperative that the Board of Regents investigate the full need to raise the cost of attending the University. Often, it is not simply about increasing or decreasing costs - we need to holistically examine whether the University’s expenditures are being made for the right priorities. While a tuition increase may still prove necessary, it will grant students the necessary assurance that they are getting the value they are paying for.

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