Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier on a South Carolina House bill that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry handguns in view:
Most S.C. legislators know the claims that having more armed citizens makes us all safer are at best wishful thinking, at worst dangerously wrong - as demonstrated yet again Feb. 11 when yet another report came out indicating just the opposite, with the highest per-capita gun deaths in states with the most permissive gun laws and the lowest death rates in the states with the least permissive laws.
But the gun lobby is vocal, persistent, well-heeled and extremely influential in Republican primary races, and many of our legislators are afraid of the political consequences if they don’t sufficiently support the arming of our society.
So with guns-on-every-street-corner advocates pushing for their paradoxically named “constitutional carry” bill (if people had a constitutional right to carry any gun they wanted anywhere they wanted, there would be no need for a law authorizing it), a lot of legislators are supporting an “open carry” bill to allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns in plain view.
It seems to a lot of lawmakers like a smart strategic move - a significant liberalization of state gun laws that could take some of the wind out of efforts to let everybody carry guns openly everywhere they want to, without any required training or permits or background checks or anything.
And so H.3094 easily cleared a House subcommittee on Wednesday, even though the supporters who spoke in favor of it were vastly outnumbered by the concealed weapons permit holders, doctors and police officials who warned that it would encourage aggression and assist in intimidation efforts and make it nearly impossible for police to tell the good guys from the bad guys. So much for legislators’ claims that they respect, support and want to do all they can to protect police; that lasts only as long as police don’t point out how things lawmakers want to do would endanger them.
In fairness to supporters, South Carolina’s concealed weapons law seems not to have been the disaster many predicted; there’s good reason to believe that most permit holders are law-abiding citizens who are unlikely to get into shootouts just because someone insults them. And certainly, if we had to liberalize our gun law, we’d much rather expand how people can carry weapons after they take a course and pass a test and a background check and register with SLED than to just go all Wild West.
We don’t need to liberalize our gun laws.
And we shouldn’t liberalize our gun laws.
Supporters say H.3094 would simply bring South Carolina in line with the 45 states that allow people to carry handguns openly. That argument is at best misleading, because what “open carry” means is different in most states. In Hawaii, for instance, it means people can carry an unconcealed handgun if a police chief issues them a permit in an “exceptional case,” and then only in that county. Utah makes the list because state law allows people to carry an unloaded handgun in public. Other states impose geographic restrictions.
Beyond that, the argument is reminiscent of, “but Mom, all the kids are doing it.”
And passing open carry in hopes of deflating extremist demands for a repeal of our state’s modest gun restrictions is sort of like renaming all the roads and buildings that were named for George Washington in an effort to appease the extremists who demand that we tear down all the monuments to our first president.
Both ideas should be nonstarters.
The Times and Democrat on pioritiziing teachers in the vaccination process:
The Legislature is pressing a stated priority of getting students back inside school buildings for in-person instruction.
On Feb. 9, the Senate passed a measure that would make all teachers and critical school staff eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Phase A1 along with people 65 years of age and older. From there, the Senate would mandate that all school districts offer students in-person classes five days a week immediately after spring break.
At present, the S.C. Department of Education reports that of South Carolina’s 1,266 public schools, only 646 are offering face-to-face instruction. An additional 589 are offering a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction and 31 schools are only holding class virtually.
To date, teachers have pushed back on mandating in-person instruction while also contending they must get vaccinated soon just to keep schools operating as they are at present, citing staffers out on medical leave or quarantined.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey has been a driving force for legislation to return schools to in-person instruction, stating prior to the legislative session that he hears more about the issue from constituents than any other. Massey wanted students back in schools even sooner but said that the Senate plan can work.
On the House side, Calhoun County Democratic Rep. Russell Ott is joining with Republican Rep. Neal Collins of Pickens County in a joint resolution aimed at the same objectives, directing the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to include public and private K-12 teachers as well as all employees at public and private K-12 schools in Phase 1A of the vaccine plan. The resolution also states that all schools must offer five days of in-person class instruction no later than 28 days after the resolution goes into effect.
Teachers are currently in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout, which includes essential workers like law enforcement and grocery store workers. In addition to those over 65, Phase 1A includes health care workers.
The concern over pushing teachers to the front of the vaccine line has been expressed by none other than Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who has said he will not sacrifice getting older South Carolinians vaccinated to push teachers to the front of the line.
“Breaking faith by slowing down, disrupting, cancelling, or delaying any senior’s vaccination shot is a bad idea with deadly consequences,” McMaster tweeted. “I cannot - and will not - allow their lives to be jeopardized.”
The question is just what would moving teachers into Phase 1A mean for older South Carolinians in getting the COVID vaccine.
DHEC is not opposing the change for teachers.
Nick Davidson, the state health department’s director of community health services, told The State newspaper of Columbia that the agency estimates Phase 1A to be completed by early spring. Adding roughly 70,000 teachers and staff would extend the phase for about two weeks.
His statement comes on the heels of state epidemiologist Linda Bell telling lawmakers changing the vaccine order wouldn’t lead to a reduction in the number of doses the state receives from the federal government. The government allocates vaccines to states based on population.
“I’m a very strong vaccine advocate. Whatever decision is made, DHEC will do all that we can with the planning, operations and logistics to make sure it happens,” Bell said.
The governor has been a strong proponent of getting students back into schools, even without teacher vaccinations. He is backed up by studies that show in-person instruction with the proper COVID-19 protocols in place is safe. But it’s not happening on a statewide basis.
With the legislature likely to push ahead with the plan to vaccinate teachers, McMaster will have to decide whether a veto is in order, though a two-thirds vote to override him and proceed seems likely in both houses.
As much as no one wants any delays in getting those already in Phase 1A vaccinated, prioritizing teachers at this point has become necessary – with the mandate that in-person instruction begin as called for in the final legislative resolution.
The Index-Journal on the number of executive orders signed by recent presidents:
Executive orders seem to be a popular topic for discussion.
We received a letter to the editor submission that right out of the gate launched a bit of misinformation.
“So far, President Biden has put out more executive orders than the previous three combined.”
OK, it’s true that President Biden hit the ground running and probably got hand cramps by signing 28 executive orders. That’s nearly as many orders as President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed in his first month in office.
Even if the writer meant Biden had signed more executive orders in the first month than his three predecessors combined, so far it’s a tally of 28-35.
Every president seems inclined to take pen in hand and bypass Congress with executive orders, orders that often are then negated by the next president representing the opposite party.
Biden does seem to be galloping right out of the gate, but let’s see how he does on the long haul around the presidential track.
For perspective, consider:
Bill Clinton, a two-term president, signed a total of 364 executive orders.
George W. Bush, who followed Clinton’s presidency and also was a two-termer, signed a total of 291.
Barack Obama, who then took the keys to the White House from Bush and also served two terms, signed 276 executive orders during his years in office.
And 45? Donald Trump, a one-term president, penned 220 executive orders. That’s just 56 fewer executive orders than Obama signed during the course of eight years.
The day is young, as the saying goes, and perhaps Biden will surpass them all. Perhaps not. But let’s watch the fuzzy math.
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