We must talk about suicide

We must talk about suicide

Gazette Column
For Iowans between the ages of 15 and 34, suicide is second-leading cause of death On Monday we learned a third person connected to a mass shooting took his own life. Jeremy Richman, a 49-year-old neuroscientist and father of Newtown, Conn., shooting victim Avielle Richman, took his own life in the town hall offices of the nonprofit he co-founded to research violence and named for his daughter, the Avielle Foundation. His death closely followed those of two survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Also gone are former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cheerleader and recent graduate Sydney Aiello, 19, who lost her best friend in the rampage, and an unidentified sophomore at the school. (Author’s note: After this column was filed, the family of Calvin Desir identified him as the second Parkland shooting survivor to…
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More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

Gazette Column
Pro-gun legislation in the Iowa Statehouse has succumbed to a barrage of bullets. Unfortunately, this is not a metaphor. The nation’s latest mass shooting, this time at a Florida high school, contributed to the demise of an Iowa bill aimed to loosen gun-permitting regulations. Instead, lawmakers want school districts to adopt security plans that address “active shooters” and other disasters. Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who managed Senate File 2106, said the untimely and unnecessary deaths of 17 Floridians “apparently changed the optics.” Well, it’s about damn time. [caption id="attachment_1934" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Students, friends and family gather at the memorial crosses at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., to remember those where were killed and injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)[/caption]…
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Newtown was nearly five years ago

Newtown was nearly five years ago

Gazette Column
At times, the juxtaposition of information makes it all the more poignant. In December five years ago I wasn’t employed by The Gazette, but by another local company that had a large on-site corporate cafeteria, complete with large screen televisions. I was sitting in that cafeteria as co-workers put the finishing touches on an upcoming holiday celebration. Each year the company invited employees to bring their children into the facility, where Santa presented each one with a personalized gift. That day, the children’s gifts had all been wrapped and tagged and a final count was underway. One worker read the children’s’ names from a list while others searched out the gift and, once found, placed it in a different pile. The name was checked off the list to ensure no…
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Time to stop the Chicago blame game

Time to stop the Chicago blame game

Featured, Gazette Column
There’s a persistent rumbling of how Chicago transplants are to blame for just about every negative trend in Eastern Iowa. Perhaps you’ve heard it? The lack of affordable housing in our communities, as well as the strain on local social services organizations, according to the rumbles, is because people from Chicago are moving here and jumping to the front of the line. Incidents of violence are skyrocketing, they say, because Chicago transplants are bringing gang activity, guns and illicit drugs with them. Even if violence and mayhem isn’t the intent, there’s a cultural divide between small city Iowa and big city Illinois that’s impossible to cross. And, perhaps worst of all, the rumbles single out people from Chicago’s south side as instigators of neighborhood corruption, which is too often a…
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Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Gazette Column
A national coalition of gun violence prevention artists, activists and organizations are coming together for a second annual Concert Across America. Iowa voices will rise up as part of organized events Sunday, but readers can sing out now. Last year, more than 5,200 artists performed at 350 events across 43 states to call for universal background checks and stronger laws in every state to reduce gun violence. As I write this column, more than 180 concerts across 40 states had been announced for 2017 — including the Iowa communities of Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Clinton. The events are planned for Sept. 24 because Congress designated the day for remembering murder victims. For this year’s series of events, national organizers hope individuals and groups from coast-to-coast also will take part in a world…
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Gun reforms show how close lawmakers can get to no rules

Gun reforms show how close lawmakers can get to no rules

Gazette Column
Let’s say that during the course of your day you are approached by two people. One has a pipe with marijuana residue, the other is carrying a firearm without a permit. Which do you perceive as a greater threat to public safety? Lawmakers, according to House Study Bill 133, believe that while both people committed the same level of offense — a simple misdemeanor — the person with drug paraphernalia should face stiffer penalties. The pipe nets its holder up to 30 days in jail and monetary fines of up to roughly $700, which is the typical sentence for such a misdemeanor. But an in-depth reading of HSB 133 shows that lawmakers hope to establish new sentencing guidelines for these misdemeanors when a firearm without a permit is involved. Under…
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Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past five years, Iowa law has required citizens wanting a weapons permit to pay for a “safety” class that has no minimum standards. And, based on conversations with the crop of this year’s legislative candidates, no changes are on the horizon. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapons permitting from local law enforcement, the law required most applicants to attend safety classes. The Legislature, however, did not specify the content or curriculum of those classes or give such authority to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. [caption id="attachment_147" align="alignright" width="300"] A display of 7-round .45 caliber handguns are seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New York January 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)[/caption] The result is a patchwork — a…
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Reasonable to require gun handling

Reasonable to require gun handling

Gazette Column
Some Iowa senators finally seem ready to require basic gun handling as part of the permitting process. Better late than never. Sen. Steve Sodders, a State Center Democrat, told Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell that if the Iowa Senate takes up a House-approved bill that would make permit renewal easier and keep permit holders’ information private, passage would likely be linked to a requirement that those applying for permits demonstrate basic weapon knowledge. “How to load it and unload it safely. You know, point it downrange, don’t point it at people. All those safety issues,” Sodders told IPR. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapon permitting from local law enforcement, the state mandated most permit applicants attend guns safety classes. The legislature,…
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2015 ‘gifts’ that should be returned

2015 ‘gifts’ that should be returned

Gazette Column
If someone will please direct me to the back of the line, I have a few “gifts” from 2015 I’d like to return. 1. The dress. We’ll never get back all the time we spent trying to figure out how to accessorize an outfit that some saw as white and gold and others saw as blue and black. 2. Bird flu. The epidemic cost the state more than $1 billion and the nation more than $3 billion. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t get re-gifted in 2016. 3. DVD set of “The Apprentice.” It looked good from a distance; the GOP primary offered a different perspective. 4. Hasty closure of two state-run mental health institutes. We shouldn’t forget that there was a bipartisan compromise rejected by Gov. Terry Branstad…
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Violence product of words, laws

Violence product of words, laws

Gazette Column
Let’s hope 2016 is the year we agree no one has a special right to enforce ideology through terror. Thus far, we’ve not done so well on that front. Too many times we’ve witnessed perpetrators of deadly rampages written off as suffering from mental deficiencies or as otherwise “brainwashed” by this or that ideology. Those who enter restaurants, movie theaters, health clinics, concerts, churches or other public spaces with intent to harm others in the hope of advancing or in retaliation for a specific ideology are terrorists. Not “lone wolves.” Not mere shooters or gunmen. Not activists. Not disenfranchised. Not “let down” by the system. Domestic or foreign, individuals hoping to spread their “good news” or prevent another’s by brute force deserve to be met with the full force of…
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