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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Not too late to join the work of the SET Task Force

Not too late to join the work of the SET Task Force

Gazette Column
Many sparks needed to ignite a fire of change Members of the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force held their first comprehensive public meeting Thursday night since releasing their final report and recommendations last February, and an important perspective was missing — yours. The SET Task Force, as it is called, was formed in the fall of 2015, a collaborative and community effort endorsed by the Cedar Rapids Community School District, city and county. Cedar Rapids and the metro area was reeling at that time due to a variety of violent crimes, in particular a rash of “shots fired” incidents. But it was the shooting death of Aaron Richardson, a 15-year-old, by Robert Humbles, a then 14-year-old, near Redmond Park in September 2015 that ultimately coalesced political will and led…
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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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Support sexual assault survivors

Support sexual assault survivors

Gazette Column
Recent social media initiatives have shown how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are, and that’s left some men (and women) wondering how they can effectively be supportive of survivors. The first thing to understand about violent crimes, and especially sex crimes, law enforcement and field experts told me this week, is survivors don’t respond in the same way. Some react defiantly, purposefully doing things that were part of the day they were attacked. Others become more cautious. Except for self-harm, there isn’t a necessarily “right” or “wrong” reaction to assault, even if the survivor later seeks counseling to modify reactive behavior. Sexual assault, as hopefully most of us already realize, has more to do with assault and violence than sex. The FBI defines “rape” as any non-consentual insertion of an object or…
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Postcards offer love, bolster unity

Postcards offer love, bolster unity

Gazette Column
Hate crimes are on the rise in America, and religion-based violence leads the pack. As a May Senate Judiciary Committee hearing led by Sen. Chuck Grassley thoroughly detailed: Hate crimes against minority faiths spiked 86 percent in the past year — a low-ball percentage that only reflects what’s reported. “Religious hate crimes against Muslims are the fastest growing category,” said Grassley, an Iowa Republican. “Fear for practicing one’s religion should never happen in this country.” Religion-based violence touched the Midwest again last weekend when a bomb exploded inside the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in suburban Minneapolis. As people gathered for morning prayers, the explosion ripped through the local religious leader’s office. Furnishings were charred, windows shattered — but thankfully no lives lost. Only a week before, swastikas and messages warning…
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Family Leader cashing in on tragedy

Family Leader cashing in on tragedy

Gazette Column
Time to clean the temple courts Let’s start this off by saying what shouldn’t need to be said: Allow the dead to be buried before attempting to fundraise on their graves. I was not surprised to receive an email from Bob Vander Plaats noting how he and other Christians are misunderstood victims of hate in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. “While the nation still is grieving over the shooting deaths in Orlando, some are beginning to lash out in anger,” Vander Plaats wrote on behalf of the Family Leader. “We’ve already seen it here in Iowa, but our sister organization in Florida under John Stemberger is on the front lines of this bitter backlash.” Most of the email is a long essay by Stemberger, a religious…
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Incentives speed Iowa bill to terminate parental rights of rapists

Incentives speed Iowa bill to terminate parental rights of rapists

Gazette Column
This is the most disgusting example possible of state lawmakers first ignoring and then profiting from a morally abhorrent problem. Back in 2012, when U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., waxed poetic about “legitimate rape,” the nation was yet again embroiled in a debate about abortion rights. Specifically, if abortion was illegal, should a woman’s health or sexual assault warrant exceptions. Akin was widely, and rightfully, chastised for suggesting that rape didn’t exist and, if it did, women couldn’t get pregnant as a result of it. Lost within the fanfare of ignorant comments uttered during an election year were the voices of women who had been raped, did become pregnant and made a choice. Too often those choices were made more difficult by laws that allow accused and convicted attackers to…
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Apple right to resist DOJ ask

Apple right to resist DOJ ask

Gazette Column
Apple has been ordered to develop software for a very important reason. Even so, the tech giant is right to resist. A magistrate judge, acting on a request by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, says Apple must help law enforcement disable safety features on an iPhone 5C. The device was owned by Syed Farook, who was part of the husband and wife shooting team in the San Bernardino attacks. Users of iPhones can choose to have data automatically deleted if an incorrect passcode is entered too many times. A secondary feature progressively slows down passcode guesswork. Both are safety features, intended to keep the user’s personal information and data private. The good news is, if the G-Men can’t bypass them on their own, the features obviously work. But the latest…
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Smart to refocus on homeland

Smart to refocus on homeland

Gazette Column
Attitudes shifted that day in 1995 when I stood before the miserable, exposed interior of the federal building in Oklahoma City. This year marked the 20th anniversary of that terrorist attack, perpetrated by Americans. Few realize, however, that it was not the first time Americans plotted to bomb the OKC federal building. James Ellison, founder of the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord (CSA), came to OKC in 1983 with white supremacist Richard Wayne Snell to case the building. Snell wanted to target the government due to a tax dispute. Ellison’s sketches and plans could have served as a first draft for the 1995 attack since they called for a vehicle packed with explosives to be parked in front of the building and remotely detonated. Snell was on death…
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