Friday, March 30, 2018

Rural weekly editors' perspective on the gun debate

Following our recent item about the difference between a March for Our Lives rally in rural Kentucky and those in more urban areas, we wondered what the nation's rural newspapers had to say about the debate on guns and school violence. Here are examples from a few rural weeklies:

Editor Anthony Campbell of the Advertiser-Gleam in Guntersville, Ala. (pop 8,197), said he had "conflicted feelings" about a state House bill to allow teachers to carry guns. As a hunter and avid recreational shooter, he says he is pro-Second Amendment, but abhors open-carry laws because he doesn't know how much training a gun owner has had. "Bearing arms is a right," he writes. "But it is also a big responsibility." He likes that the proposed bill would require 40 hours of training and a mental evaluation. Read him here.

John Newkirk of the Canyon Courier in Evergreen, Colo. (pop. 9,038), says the problem goes deeper than the National Rifle Association or gun manufacturers: "By all means, let’s get out there and protest: let’s protest the Hollywood hypocrites who sanctimoniously stand against gun violence but then strap on multiple assault weapons for their latest 'action-adventure' film. Let’s protest the purveyors of ultra-violent video games that normalize killing and give first prize for the highest body count. Let’s protest a system that won’t hesitate to politicize our students yet spends little if any time on character development." Read it here.

The Blackshear Times (motto: "Liked by many, cussed by some, read by them all") in a Georgia town of 3,445 remonstrated readers for spreading unfounded rumors on social media after an alleged local school-shooting threat. "You very likely do not know as much information about the situation as do your school officials and our law enforcement. There is a reason for that: They are trained and given the direct responsibility to deal with such situations . . . Stop: Don’t get swept away in fits of hysteria. Look: Check other trusted, more reliable, sources before you spread information. Listen: We all have a voice inside our heads that begs us not to react too quickly, to be careful, to use good judgment. Listen to that voice." Read more here.

Mike Buffington of the Jackson Herald in Jefferson, Ga. (pop. 9,432), writes that it wasn't unusual for high-school students to have a rifle in their cars in the school parking lot in his youth, "but the world has changed a lot since then. As the recent events in Florida demonstrate, there is no reason anyone under the age of 21 should be able to buy a gun, especially a high-capacity rifle. Raising the purchase age to 21 should be a no-brainer." An avid recreational shooter and antique gun collector, Buffington also says we must stop viewing guns as a form of political expression. "A gun is a gun; it's not the national symbol."

The Perry County News in Tell City, Ind. (pop. 19,388), focused on school safety rather than guns, saying that local efforts to fund the hiring of more resource officers were "a step in the right direction" and noted that "87 percent of school resource officers report confiscating knives from students, with two-thirds of officers saying they’ve prevented assaults on faculty. That is of the more than 7,000 officers patrolling schools across the nation." Read more here.

In the twice-weekly Cody Enterprise (in the Wyoming town of 9,500 founded by gunslinger William "Buffalo Bill" Cody), Editor Amber Peabody acknowledged that the gun debate is contentious, but said that there are many common-sense steps local schools can take and have taken to reduce students' risk. She applauded students in the nearby Riverton school district who had told the school board they felt unsafe. "The students demanding action in Riverton and throughout the nation deserve credit. We can’t expect any one change to eliminate shootings, but as the Riverton students’ mentioned, lets not fail them. This is not about politics, it's about collaborating and even compromising for the safety of our students." Read more here.

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