- Associated Press - Monday, April 19, 2021

Houston Chronicle. April 14, 2021.

Editorial: Texas lawmakers’ response to flood of gun deaths? Make it easier to own guns

“April is the cruelest month,” the poet has written. True enough in an existential sense, and yet this year we are inclined to differ. Like bluebonnets springing up along Texas roadsides, signs of glorious post-pandemic life are reemerging. Life is gradually returning to normal.

And yet, normal in this nation means routine, incessant unmitigated killing - of each other and of ourselves. In a sense, T.S. Eliot was closer to correct than he might have imagined. April this year is as cruel as any other April.

“Normal” the past few weeks includes the following:



In a Minneapolis suburb - barely 10 miles from where a Minneapolis police officer is on trial for the death of George Floyd - a young man trying to elude a traffic stop for a minor offense dies when a veteran police officer fires a bullet into his chest, which she has called an accident, claiming she meant to fire her Taser.

In the Dallas suburb of Allen, a young man murders five members of his family and then kills himself with a gun.

In Pleasant Grove, another Dallas suburb, a 9-year-old shoots and kills his 11-year-old brother.

In Bryan, a gunman kills a person and wounds at least five others - four of them critically - at a cabinet manufacturer where he apparently worked.

In April and beyond in this COVID-worn nation, suicide has become the second-leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This month we learn that right-wing terrorism is at an all-time high in this country.

In a nation with more guns than people, the through line linking all these awful incidents is not police reform or mental-health measures or classes in gun safety, as vital as those initiatives are. It is guns.

We have vastly more gun deaths, including suicides, than any developed nation in the world - because we have more guns, 400 million guns for 330 million people. Each day in the U.S., more than 300 people are shot; more than 100 of them die.

No wonder a police officer walking up to an idling car is anxious. In a nation awash in guns, who knows what’s inside a glove compartment, underneath a seat? In a nation awash in guns, a person attempting suicide is almost sure to be successful, if a gun is used. In a nation awash in guns, a gun at home is more likely to result in an accidental death (or a suicide) than in repelling an intruder. Compared with Canada, with Great Britain, with Japan, with New Zealand, with Australia, our gun fetish is anything but normal.

Guns are on the minds of Texas lawmakers this session. The Republicans in charge are eager to make them more accessible, not less.

No permit? No training? No problem. That’s the gist of House Bill 1911 sponsored by state Rep. James White, an East Texas Republican. White insists Second Amendment rights are more important than safety classes, or permits that might weed out those with no business being anywhere near a gun.

With the enthusiastic endorsement of Gov. Greg Abbott, White’s “constitutional carry” bill is likely to become law, after near misses in recent sessions. The governor made expanding gun rights a priority this session, the first since mass shootings in Midland-Odessa and El Paso killed dozens of Texans. Never mind that nearly every police association statewide oppose laws making guns even more ubiquitous. In Abbott’s view, and in the view of many in his party, our Second Amendment rights trump life itself.

We began with muzzle-flashes of death. We’ll conclude with glimmers of life:

President Joe Biden last week unveiled several actions to curb what he called “an epidemic” of gun violence. They included an effort to regulate so-called “ghost guns,” made from kits with no serial numbers. He directed the Justice Department to propose a rule for regulating stabilizing braces for AR-style pistols; and to issue annual reports on gun trafficking, something that hasn’t been done in 20 years. The White House also will develop a model red-flag law for states that will allow law enforcement and family members to remove firearms from individuals who are at risk to themselves and others. Biden also proposed making changes in several federal grant programs to prioritize funding for community violence intervention efforts.

The president acknowledged that his executive orders are modest efforts to address a major national crisis. He insists they’re just a beginning.

In Austin, state Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston, is expanding on the good work of so-called “violence interrupters” by sponsoring legislation that would establish the Office of Violence Prevention. His House Bill 1589 would assist groups working to reduce preventable injuries and deaths from all forms of physical violence, including guns.

The proposed office would establish violence prevention as a public health issue and would be housed, not in a law enforcement agency, but in the Texas Department of Health Services.

Rosenthal’s effort, like Biden’s, is modest and well-intentioned, but it might have a flicker of a chance in the Texas Legislature because of its community-based focus. It has nothing to do with gun control.

Here in Texas, bluebonnets are usually gone by May. Guns are not. And across the country the killings continue. In this “cruel” month and beyond, Rosenthal’s proposal - and Biden’s - are certainly worth a try.

___

Weatherford Democrat. April 17, 2021.

Editorial: We must do better

If there’s anything this week’s news of an Aledo ISD racial harassment incident has shown, racism isn’t just a big-city problem - and it never has been.

The school district earlier this week confirmed that there was bullying and harassment of other students based on their race. On Thursday night, two of their mothers publicly addressed the board, saying they were disgusted and infuriated about it, but wanted to give the school an opportunity to “get it right.”

Aledo ISD may be in the public spotlight right now, but it happens all over.

About two years ago in another Parker County school, a noose was found hanging over a bathroom stall inside of a middle school.

Like Aledo ISD, the district issued a statement that that type of behavior “would not be tolerated” and that disciplinary action would be administered according to the district’s Student Code of Conduct.

Weatherford/Parker County NAACP President Eddie Burnett recently said he doesn’t feel that schools are teaching students to be racist. And we agree.

“I don’t think that is what’s happening, but I think we all have different personalities, we all have different biases that we might not even be aware that we have and other people, children in particular, pick up on these things,” he said.

Racism is an issue - not just at the juvenile age - and sweeping it under the rug doesn’t make it go away.

People of all races or backgrounds should feel welcomed and included, whether in school, at work or in a town - not ostracized.

As the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. once said, “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”

We must do better. And situations like these can allow us to do so, to teach and learn from, so kids and adults can understand that these actions are unacceptable.

And it all starts with a hard conversation - standing up and speaking out. And perhaps just as important? Remembering to listen.

___

Abilene Reporter News. April 17, 2021.

Editorial: Nothing cheesy about this - Abilene finds its new cash cow

In front of all the cameras Friday morning, local and state officials smiled and said, “Cheese!”

While we like cheese on our burgers and nachos, cheese in our tacos and cheese mixed into our salads, we don’t think about cheese so much here.

Maybe Sundays, when Green Bay is playing at Lambeau Field and cheeseheads fill the stands.

Maybe when we’re hungry and Cheddar’s sounds good.

But as of Friday, we became all about cheese.

With the announcement that Great Lakes Cheese wants to build a huge facility here and employ more than 500 in good-paying jobs, we saw green, if not bleu.

It was fun watching everyone jumping on board the good news wagon, including three Republicans in Austin. Gov. Greg Abbott, challenged by the pandemic and more recent statewide power outage, delivered the good news.

And promised to be here for the ribbon cutting in coming months, wearing a cheese head.

That we have to see.

This being baseball season, we’d have to say the Development Corporation hit a home run. Maybe a grand slam.

Great Lakes was offered a tasty incentive package, and Abilene seems to be a good place to be in Texas, near the Fort Worth-Dallas area and other existing customers. Great Lakes serves retailers and food service operations.

DCOA’s head cheese, Misty Mayo, said a finalist city in Tennessee actually had a better incentive offer but we still won out. And although Texas’ dairy industry has shifted to the Panhandle, cities there were not considered as finalists.

This will take some time, so for now, we advise Abilene to keep calm and cheese on.

___

Valley Morning Star. April 13, 2021.

Editorial: Ballot blockers: Legislature tried to impede voters’ access to ballot box

The Texas Legislature appears ready to pass legislation that would severely restrict public access to the ballot box. Gov. Greg Abbott supports the measures and likely will sign them.

If we’ve learned anything from the events of the past few years, it should have been that the apparently increasing capricious nature of world events should inspire us to create more contingency plans and improve ways to improve important actions - not construct roadblocks and make them harder.

Especially access to the ballot box, which is the most fundamental public activity for U.S. citizens and the basis upon which our entire government is built.

One of the primary anti-democracy bills before state lawmakers is Senate Bill 7, a comprehensive measure that would restrict the placement of polling places, curtail the ability of local officials to extend voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and restrict counties’ delivery of mail-in ballots.

All of these activities came into play last year as the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted public activities and could have drastically reduced voter turnout if creative elections officials hadn’t taken contingency measures.

One of the measures that one the most praise was the implementation of drive-thru voting, in which voters remained in their vehicles while precinct staffers brought ballots to them and ran them through the ballot boxes for them. Many voters who utilized this method might not have voted otherwise due to their fears of standing in crowded polling sites and risking exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus.

Extended hours also were found necessary as voters participated numbers. Allowing officials to make such adjustments is crucial, as it helps give voters the opportunity, and the confidence, to join long lines of voters near the end of scheduled voting hours.

Local officials also should not lose the right to determine the best polling locations. Not only could another pandemic make it prudent to move precincts to safer facilities, but other events also could make last-minute moves necessary.

For example, heavy flooding in recent years has left many parts of the Rio Grande Valley impassible for days. Houston has had similar problems, including two “100-year” floods just a couple of years apart. Fortunately, such events haven’t occurred during an election, but they could. Hurricanes, tornadoes and other events could also affect polling sites here and elsewhere. The state should not handcuff local officials against making necessary adjustments if any such event occurs during an election.

The worst part of this kind of legislation is that it is even more movement along the slow but steady loss of local and individual rights and control. Our country was founded upon the recognition of individual rights and the assertion of local determination. State limits on local officials only drag us farther down the road to tyranny.

State lawmakers should be looking for ways to help people cast their votes, not put barriers in front of them. If they are worried about how people will use their votes, the solution is simple: pursue policies and champion causes for which the people will vote.

END

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