Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
Dothan Eagle on a small-town newspaper that called for a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan:
Among our most precious freedoms in America are freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These are pillars of democracy.
They also represent a two-edged blade, meaning that not only are we guaranteed the right to speak our mind, those with whom we disagree enjoy the same protections.
Occasionally there are incidents that test those constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, such as the hullaballoo that followed the publication of an editorial in a small West Alabama newspaper last week. Publisher/editor Goodloe Sutton of The Democrat-Reporter in Linden opined in his Feb. 14 edition, “Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again.”
His message is breathtakingly shocking, and deserves the repercussions and censure that have already begun. Within days two universities - Auburn and the University of Southern Mississippi — withdrew honors bestowed on Sutton.
And from the state press association: “The Alabama Press Association Board of Directors voted today to censure Goodloe Sutton and suspend the association membership of The Democrat-Reporter. The members have a right under the bylaws to address the question of expulsion of the newspaper at our next membership meeting.”
Actions have consequences. So do words.
Cullman Times on altering a gun permit law:
The weeks leading up to the 2019 session of the Alabama Legislature brings plenty of pre-filed bills, but one in particular is troubling.
State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, is making another attempt to push through a bill eliminating the requirement for Alabamians to obtain a pistol permit to conceal and carry handguns.
Allen contends residents have a constitutional right to carry pistols without having to register with the local sheriff’s office.
Alabama is a decidedly pro-gun state, one of the tops. According to a report by CBS, for every 1,000 residents in Alabama, there are 20 guns. That’s a total of 96,744 registered firearms among 4,833,722 people. That places Alabama at No. 7 in the country.
The amount of unregistered guns can only be a guess because of weapons handed down by families or brought into the state illegally.
The presence of so many guns is not in itself bad. Hunting, target shooting and self-defense have long been the reasons Americans are constitutionally guaranteed the right to own guns under the Second Amendment.
Allen, however, is stepping beyond the Constitution in his bill. The government, for the sake of the people, has the right — and it’s a beneficial right — to know who owns or has purchased certain guns. The information is valuable for law enforcement officers when they are alerted to potential problems.
For many officers, Allen’s bill would add more danger to their jobs. And if their work is more difficult, the general public may have less protection.
The Alabama Sheriffs Association says permits are a matter of public safety, giving law enforcement the ability to know if someone is allowed to legally carry a firearm.
Through the years, sheriffs have done a good job of screening local populations through the permit system. Everyone should want the checks and balance of a professional law enforcement staff evaluating requests for permits to carry concealed weapons.
Last year, Allen’s bill passed the Senate and failed in the House.
While we appreciate the Second Amendment and the stance of many law-abiding Alabamians to have access to guns, the permit system provides some protection for the public.
Citizens who are responsible and train with firearms cannot only have the chance to protect themselves, but others. These individuals should not have any problems in obtaining a permit.
For the amount of protection it provides, we support keeping the sheriff involved in issuing conceal carry permits and recommend that Allen’s bill fails again.
TimesDaily (Florence) on state prisons:
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s ruling that Alabama has been “deliberately indifferent” about monitoring the mental health of state inmates is the latest in a long series of black marks aimed at the state prison system.
Thompson issued his ruling just days after attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed the suicide rate in state prisons has reached a crisis level. The agency reported there have been 13 suicides in the past 14 months.
“People are killing themselves in our prisons because conditions are horrendous,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen at a press conference.
The growing list of concerns about the prison system has kept the issue at the top of the Legislature’s “to do” lists in recent years, but lawmakers have failed to address the problems. The roadblock, of course, is the same one that keeps the state from taking a host of other actions — a General Fund that never seems to have enough money to fill all the legitimate funding requests.
Gov. Kay Ivey in her inaugural address last month claimed changes “can and must be made” to the state’s overburdened prison system. And she hinted she’s willing to turn to the private sector, if necessary.
“We are revitalizing our statewide corrections system by replacing costly, at-risk prison facilities,” Ivey said of a proposal she is considering to lease prisons built by private firms. “This effort will ensure that Alabama stays committed to statewide prison reform.”
Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn has made a pitch to lawmakers requesting funding to pay for 500 additional corrections officers. That’s merely a fraction of the 2,000 officers Dunn claims he really needs.
If he doesn’t get those officers, Dunn will find it very difficult to meet Ivey’s demands that he overhaul the prison system. In addition to new facilities and more staff, the governor wants to reduce inmate violence, address the mental health issues that Thompson has cited, and reduce overcrowding through sentencing reforms.
Solving the deepening crisis in the state’s prison system will not be easy or cheap. But lawmakers can no longer justify delaying action on this festering problem.