- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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March 17

The Gainesville Times says students need to follow marches against gun violence with civic engagement:

Last Wednesday’s scheduled demonstration by students in Gainesville and nationwide was, for many, an indication of the concern and the passion today’s young people have for issues that affect them.



It’s a shame it took a tragedy like last month’s school shooting in Florida to rally so many teens and others to share their ideas on the issues it touched, including gun laws, mental health and bullying. However one feels on those issues, a robust debate is healthy, and having those from all sides and all age groups weigh in gives the discussion more value.

Such civic engagement is an encouraging sign, and raises hopes young people will learn more about how government works and take an active role throughout their lives.

Students at the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 died did their part, traveling to both state and national capitals to register their views with lawmakers. Others throughout the country have picked up the ball at the local level, Wednesday’s event seen as a show of support for their cause. To the credit of all who took part here, students were orderly and respectful, and school officials in Gainesville, Hall and most other districts in the area supported their efforts without a disciplinary response. It was handled properly.

But what comes next?

While we support and applaud students’ willingness to express their views, we urge them and others not to stop there. Protests are fine up to a point; they surely had a profound effect on public opinion during the civil rights and Vietnam War marches in the 1960s.

But it’s a different era and it’s questionable whether such actions on their own can have the same impact in an era of instant news and 24/7 news coverage when so many groups are protesting for various reasons. Chanting and marching alone won’t change things; it takes active political participation up and down the line.

That begins with voting. While today’s 16- and 17-year-olds who are engaged in the issues don’t yet have that right, many who reach age 18 still aren’t being counted in large numbers. Voter turnout in 2016 was around 50 percent for millennials (ages 18-35), according to Pew Research figures (see chart 5). That’s up from 46 percent in the previous presidential election, which is the good news. But it still ranks far below voter turnout for older groups: Generation X (ages 36-51), 63 percent; baby boomers (ages 52-70), 69 percent: and seniors ages 70 and older, 72 percent.

Census trends over the last three decades show that while younger voters’ interest peaks and wanes, from a low of about 40 percent to a high of 51, older voters steadily turn out at 70 percent or higher in key elections.

Thus, no matter how engaged young people may seem to be out on the streets and on social media, their parents and grandparents are still making most of the decisions. Having your voice heard is a first step, but words must lead to action, and those who show up on Election Day still have the most influence.

As a demographic wave carries millennial voters into a full majority in coming years, it will be interesting to see how that turns into results at the ballot box. So far, it feels like more of a ripple than a tsunami. Perhaps the new round of political marches will carry over into election time, but the proof is in the numbers.

We encourage young people who took part in this past week’s walkouts to not let that enthusiasm for public policy fade. The same goes for those who perhaps didn’t take part because they think differently on gun control and other issues; their voices, and votes, should be counted as well as they reach voting age.

It’s safe to say those of tender years have much more at stake in our political future than others; they’ll feel the effects of today’s decisions much longer. Yet because older voters turn out in greater numbers, elected officials favor policies that serve their needs in the short term. That’s why we get budgets backing programs that benefit those middle-aged and older yet kick a $20 trillion national debt can down the road, to be paid by taxpayers decades hence. Many of those future workers now are piling up massive college loan debts and face dimming job prospects on top of the tax burden awaiting them.

If they want that to change, tweets and slogans aren’t enough. While they’re marching, others are organizing campaigns and political groups and pushing legislation that favors them. That’s the ground game in our political system that leads to results. Patience is necessary, knowing change won’t come overnight.

“The next step, I think, for students here, if they’re turning 18, is to go register to vote,” GHS junior Matthew Penado said. “Change is slow … but it happens.”

To make a difference requires putting down the sign and going to work for a political organization or campaign. It means knocking on doors, handing out fliers and making phone calls. It means staying informed about candidates and issues by relying on unbiased sources of information such as a newspaper, this one for local races or others for state and national races. Registering to vote and casting a ballot is the final step.

It’s still possible the recent wave of youthful activism is just the start of an era in which they will grab the baton of leadership and do something with it. For their sake, let’s hope it’s not both a beginning and an end.

Online: https://www.gainesvilletimes.com

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March 18

The Augusta Chronicle says schools being easy targets for shooters may be problem behind gun violence:

We share the goals of area students protesting school shootings.

Maybe just not their aims.

Over the Augusta area and across the nation last Wednesday, students walked out in protest and in other ways memorialized the 17 shot down in Parkland, Florida, exactly a month before. Some even staged a “die-in” outside the local office of Congressman Rick Allen.

The aim of many seemed to be, as one news story said, “to push Congress to end gun violence.”

Yet, can Congress really do that for us? Is Congress even the right target?

It may be, if you think all it will take to make kids safe is to disarm law-abiding citizens with gun control. We don’t happen to think so.

It’s time we had a cool, clear, rational debate on all this - and admit, if we’re intellectually honest, that the faddish “Gun-Free Zone” craze hasn’t worked.

It never could have; it’s only a gun-free zone until a criminal walks in with one. All we’ve done is assure him that no one else is armed.

There are surely some things Congress can do - such as improve interagency communications to prohibit the criminal and criminally mentally ill from purchasing guns. It can also help local jurisdictions ramp up security.

On that last point, we’re in complete agreement with Columbia County schools Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway - who recommended to her board this past week that the district add armed security officers to each of its 18 elementary schools. The board had already tentatively approved adding officers to every middle school, to go with ones at every high school.

She also asked the board to consider arming a law-enforcement-trained, well-vetted and screened teacher at each school as well.

Absolutely.

The problem, at the end of the day, isn’t the prevalence of guns. They’ve been prevalent since before our nation’s founding, and they fairly outnumber the humans today.

The problem is having allowed our schools to remain soft targets with minimal or no security.

In a way, it’s understandable in retrospect. We only incrementally increased security at airports, commercial buildings and courthouses and more - the centers of power, authority and commerce - after they became the target of terrorists and the insanely aggrieved. Why would anyone go after the most innocent - our young?

Well, it’s clear that has become a thing. And there’s no going back.

The rational response is to secure them, just as we have our courthouses and such.

We must also deal with the more complicated issues of mental illness, family breakdown, peer bullying and incessant and escalating violence in entertainment.

As to the latter: How is it we ban cartoon-figure Joe Camel because he might encourage kids to smoke, but Colin Firth massacring an entire church congregation in slow-motion gory detail in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is hunky-dory?

We support Dr. Carraway’s security-first approach wholeheartedly.

Such common-sense proposals don’t inspire dramatic walkouts and die-ins and emotion-laden placards - but they work. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been employed at airports and in government and industry.

We stand - or lie, if preferred - with our students in saying no to any more school massacres. But if they want ineffective laws just for show, that’s where we part ways.

A much better show would be a show of force.

Online: http://www.augustachronicle.com

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March 20

Savannah Morning News says the trashy aftermath of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade stains the community:

Every child’s favorite Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade entry is the Keystone Kops, who hand out mock citations for “Lookin’ Guilty” and other playful offenses.

Next year, the city of Savannah should deputize them and give them a real citation book with but one offense on the ticket: littering. The police chief’s lone instructions to the group should be to write until their hand cramps up.

The trash task force is necessary because we once again proved an inability - or unwillingness - to police ourselves and each other on parade day. The post-parade scene Saturday should embarrass each and every Savannahian.

Left-behind cans, paper and other refuse blanketed some spots like leaves do a tree-filled lawn. Sadly, about the only rubbish-free zones were the insides of the tall paper garbage-collection sacks put out by the city.

Mayor Eddie DeLoach compared the dingiest spot, Chippewa Square, to a “trash dump.” Besides being an insult to landfills nationwide, that’s a cringe-worthy assessment coming from city leadership. The before-cleanup photos also reflect the statement’s validity, whether or not you believe the city’s dubious claim that it took more than 18 hours to clean up the square.

And while Chippewa may have been the most blighted locale, it was far from the only rubbish-stained spot along the route. Even in this, the so-called me era, such public slovenliness astounds. Not to go Emily Post on the citizenry, but as she once said, manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.

Leaving behind the remnants of your good time for others to pick up is akin to stealing food off another’s plate as they watch or ignoring a friendly greeting on the street.

Naturally, some blame the mess on out-of-towners. The flaw in that logic is most of the heavy tailgate activity is organized by locals, and those all-daylong parties generate copious amounts of trash. A visitor with a hand-held cooler can produce an empty can or three, but not a case’s worth.

Yes, a significant number of Savannahians take their tents down and their chairs up yet leave their detritus on the ground. The spectacle would be worse if not for those with enough pride and self-respect to clean up after the litterbugs. A handful of do-gooders did just that post-parade on Oglethorpe Square to ensure that space didn’t look like Chippewa.

Some will suggest cleanup is the city government’s obligation. One viewer of our biweekly “Editorial Check-in” segment on the SavannahNow.com Facebook page insisted the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival wristband sales windfall offsets the sanitation costs. Even if that were the case - it’s not - paying a fee doesn’t entitle you to act like a pig.

In this instance, the only privilege the wristband charge earns you is the right to drink in public. You drop your empty cup on the cobblestones, you should get ticketed.

Another troubling aspect of the St. Patrick’s Day trash massacre is the hypocrisy. The parade crowd is overwhelmingly white and, as one peeved parade-watcher-turned-trash-collector espoused Saturday night, “old enough to know better.” They are, quite frankly, the same people who bemoan the trashing of Tybee by African-American college-age adults during Orange Crush.

The beach mess is a travesty, made even more so by the likelihood that the debris will be washed out to sea by the tide before it can be collected. But the fact that the Atlantic’s breakers don’t reach the squares is not an acceptable excuse to drop and walk.

Let’s go a step further: To curb the litter and other unsightly party-related sins, should the city consider banning alcohol consumption along the route on parade day as Tybee has done on the beach for Orange Crush weekends?

No? Then this community, at least the parade regulars, should pledge today to clean up after themselves next year and exert peer pressure on others to do likewise. Those who stake a daylong claim to square footage in a square or along a sidewalk should resolve to not go home until their area and the space nearby is debris free.

The city has enough to deal with on parade day without having to issue littering citations. And they shouldn’t have to.

Nobody, save a Sesame Street character named Oscar, wants to call a “trash dump” home.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com

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