Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ignoring rise in gun crimes statewide, Wisconsin Republicans seek to remove requirements for concealed carry permits

It's no exaggeration to say that there's a public health crisis when it comes to gun violence in Wisconsin (the numbers prove it)

Leave it to the Republicans in Wisconsin to propose a dangerous gun bill while I’m trying to relax on vacation.

The new bill would allow anyone who owns a gun to conceal their weapon in public places — without a permit — including in schools and other sensitive areas.

Eliminating the permitting process would take away an important standard meant to keep families safe in Wisconsin: such classes ensure those seeking a permit are given proper guidance to be responsible with their privileges.

Furthermore, allowing guns into sensitive areas (like on school grounds) would mean allowing dangerous weapons to be present mere feet from your loved ones.

Republicans tend to think concealed carry will make our state safer. In fact, the idea that “deterrence” would stave off crime — that "would-be" criminals would think twice before attempting to do harm against law-abiding citizens — was a concept Republicans used to sell the idea of concealed carry in the first place.

In actuality, crime has gone up significantly in the years since concealed carry became law in Wisconsin. Violent crime rates have risen by nearly 30 percent across the state overall. And the murder rate is up by 172 percent in rural counties alone since that time, meaning it’s not just a problem for cities. Deterrence has failed completely, and although concealed carry may not be responsible for the rise in crime itself, it has not been a reliable method to lessen crime over the course of the past six years.

It’s numbers like these that make recent comments by Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) seem less hyperbolic and more realistic: “Gun violence in Wisconsin isn’t a joke, it’s a public health crisis,” she said, adding that “This bill is irresponsible and dangerous, and quite frankly, defies logic.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) agrees. “Allowing anyone to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without any safety training or a simple background check is completely irresponsible,” she explained.

Indeed it is. Concealed carry permits ensure those seeking to exercise the privilege are doing so only after they have received proper safety training. Removing that standard means allowing those without this knowledge to carry a gun wherever and whenever they want.

Wisconsin won’t see less crime as a result — in fact, if trends hold true, and if this bill passes, we could see devastating consequences instead.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monona decriminalizes marijuana use, possession: Wisconsin should follow suit

The economic — and health — benefits of marijuana could be a boon for the state

The city of Monona, which sits just to the southeast of Madison, just decriminalized marijuana use and possession for law-abiding citizens over the age of 21.

By a 4-3 vote of the city council, a measure that would reduce the fine from $200 to no fine at all was approved. Mayor Bob Miller is also supportive of the measure.

The fines for users under the age of 21 remains $200, a point that advocates pushed for themselves to reinforce the idea that marijuana use should only be decriminalized for adult use only.

This move is the right direction to head in, and the state ought to look at its own standards as well. Other states across the nation have already decriminalized or outright legalized marijuana use. Wisconsin should follow suit: there is no reason that this drug, which is safer than alcohol consumption in most cases, should remain illegal.

It should be strictly regulated, of course. Every effort should be made to prevent minors from using marijuana, and hotels, restaurants and apartment complexes should have the right to tell occupants that they cannot smoke marijuana in their buildings (in fact, Wisconsin’s smoking ban should apply to marijuana smokers, too). Use while driving should also be strictly forbidden.

But we must remember that marijuana is relatively safe to use. And its legalization could be a boon to the economy. In Colorado, for instance, reported $17 million in added tax revenues — and that’s just for January of this year. For the entire year of 2016, the state reported over $200 million in tax revenues.

Wisconsin should follow other states' leads and look into legalizing marijuana itself, especially since we’re currently suffering the effects of being hit with a tight budget. A substantial amount of those revenues could go toward ensuring roads are well funded, or that public schools receive the adequate supplies that they need, for example.

Even taking a moderate approach on marijuana decriminalization would be helpful: legalizing it for medicinal purposes could comfort hundreds of thousands of patients in the state, and can help stave off the opioid crisis that Wisconsin is facing.

Conservative lawmakers that run Wisconsin will not likely budge on this. But it’s an issue they ought to reconsider: marijuana decriminalization, and eventual legalization, would be beneficial to the state’s budget as well as to the overall health of its citizens.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump is a dangerous president because he lacks this crucial skill

The president lacks the basic ability to think critically

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and I’ve come up with a definitive reason that Donald Trump is quite possibly the worst person to have serving as president of the United States — he lacks a critical mind.

That isn’t to say that Donald Trump lacks opinions. He has plenty of them, visible to the world of social media through his tweets (whether we want them or not). But his opinions are rarely the result of his own thought processes. Rather, they come from other places, usually cable news programs he’s just watched or far-right wing internet websites with questionable sources for their content.

Critical thinking is defined as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” We had a president with a critical mind when Barack Obama was in office. To be sure, he took advice from several of his close advisers, and had his own “presidential bubble.”

But Obama was an enlightened mind also, and weighed each person’s opinions against the evidence at hand, formulating a carefully thought-out opinion based on the ideas of several individuals and, most importantly, his own thinking. He acted coolly and calmly, never making a brash decision without first going over what the possible outcomes could be.

We don’t have that careful, measured analysis in President Trump. The current commander-in-chief throws out wild accusations without evidence, and relies too heavily on what information is being spoon-fed to him rather than taking stock from several different sources of information and coming up with his own decisions.

That allows for many mistakes to be made — and for many to manipulate the decision-making process of the president to reach their desired outcomes. That makes Trump’s presidency potentially the most dangerous one in recent history, and it’s why we need to stand up to him at every juncture possible.