Gun safety bills get no hearing

Two bills before the current Indiana General Assembly were not scheduled for committee hearings even though they address matters urgently important to Hoosiers. Both were assigned to the Senate’s Corrections and Criminal Law Committee. SB 28 would close critical gaps in background checks for purchase of firearms. SB 29 would require guns in homes to be stored securely to keep them from children.

Universal background checks (UBCs) are fundamental in helping to keep guns out of the hands of felons, seriously mentally ill persons, and others excluded under the current system that applies to gun dealers. However, firearms are readily available in Indiana for purchase by anyone through private sales without a background check, at gun shows, on the internet and on the streets. In a survey of gun owners who had obtained a firearm in the last two years, 22% said they were able to do so without background checks.

Nationwide, states with UBC laws experience lower rates of homicide than those without, which might be why support for comprehensive background checks was 69% of NRA members, 78% among gun owners who are not NRA members and 89% for respondents who don’t own a firearm.

SB 29’s proposal — that gun owners must store their guns in a way that prevents a child from getting one — simply should not be controversial. Safe storage helps prevent accidental shootings, teen suicides, impulsive domestic violence and trafficking in stolen firearms. Because most guns used in school shootings are taken from the home, safe storage would help to prevent school shootings and be safer than coping with a gun at school.

Employers especially have a stake in reducing gun violence. In 2017, 351 gun homicides happened in workplaces. Since 1999, mass shootings in workplaces were four times the number in schools. And communities that experience gun violence see lower property values, decline in economic growth and business startups and loss of jobs.

Hoosiers deserve public dialogue addressing access to guns in relation to gun violence, beginning with committee hearings for background checks and safe storage. Starting earnest consideration of these measures should not wait for next year’s long session. Sensible legislation to reduce gun violence perennially fails in the General Assembly because legislators underestimate the depth of support for those measures among Hoosier voters. The solution for that perception problem is for people who know better to speak up.

— Jerry King, President, Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence


Preparing for a future without coal

The Tribune-Star published an article on Feb. 4 stating that the Indiana House approved bill that could slow the closures of coal plants, on the front page. 

This article, continued on page 4, is where we find comments by Rep. Bruce Borders of Jasonville. I realize living in the center of Indiana coal country a politician needs to pander to a large group of voters to stay in office. Mr. Borders said he believes coal is not only a thing of the present, but very likely a thing of the future as well. 

Would not a better use of his time be spent preparing for the fact that coal as an industry, that like the buggy manufacturing industry, is going to become extinct. What about funding for retraining men and women in the coal industry for the jobs that will replace them?

The article goes on to mention that in other coal-dependent states, cheaper, more reliable and less harmful to our fragile environment forms of producing electricity have been welcomed by local politicians, including conservative leaning politicians. I have a family history that includes coal. My father was born in Cass, near Dugger, in 1899. At that time coal was their future. 

My father and most of my uncles, all 11 of them, bypassed education and went to the mines because it was their only choice. A couple were killed in mine accidents. Some retired or died as coal miners. Others like my father walked away when they had the opportunity. 

The future for young people in your district is not coal, Mr. Borders, it’s rapidly becoming the past. Would not your time in the Statehouse be better spent preparing your young constituents for a new, and probably more exciting future, by working on bills to help them with their future. A more welcoming and better education system could be a good place to start.

— Ron Gadberry, Sullivan

Cheers to Braun on climate change

In support of Indiana Sen. Mike Braun’s call for climate action, I want to draw attention to a remarkable document on climate change and national security. 

Sixty-four senior U.S. military and security leaders have endorsed “A Climate Security Plan for America.” It’s signed by more than 20 admirals and generals, including Rear Admiral David Titley, former oceanographer and navigator of the Navy, and General Gordon Sullivan, former chief of staff of the Army.

This comprehensive report states that increases in extreme weather “can devastate essential energy, financial and agricultural centers that undergird U.S. and global economic viability and the well-being of our populations.” It calls for initiatives to improve the resilience of our critical infrastructure and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and globally in order to avoid “catastrophic security consequences.”

Sen. Braun should be commended for speaking out on this issue and for cofounding the Senate’s bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

Urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions and funding adaptation should be top priorities for every politician who is concerned about national security and global stability.

— Terry Hansen, Hales Corners, Wisconsin


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