Alabama editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Mar. 07, 2018
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Dothan Eagle says responses to the Parkland, Florida, shooting last month are rife with bad ideas:
Many Americans expressed relief following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month because that particular massacre became a tipping point in efforts to spur response to gun violence in America.
The response, however, is all over the board, and includes some surprises.
Many states, including Alabama, are seriously considering initiatives to "arm teachers," which introduces a plethora of potential problems, not the least of which is that faculty already has its hands full. Must teachers be armed guards as well?
A significant portion of the backlash has been aimed at the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying group that pours millions into political campaigns to promote gun rights. But lobbying groups don't make law; lawmakers do. It's the lawmakers who should be held responsible for laws, particularly when circumstances reveal that their allegiance is stronger to a contributing lobbyist than to their constituency. After Delta Airlines discontinued a discount relationship with the NRA, Georgia lawmakers upheld a threat from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to pull a $40 million tax break for the airline unless it restored its relationship with the NRA. (Incidentally, only 13 NRA members had used the discount during the time it was available.)
Now, following moves by Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart to raise the age at which the businesses will sell long guns to 21, a 20-year-old Oregon man filed a lawsuit for age discrimination. Oregon law allows residents to buy shotguns and rifles at age 18; federal law prohibits the sale of handguns to anyone under 21.
It's clear that there will be a lot of rancorous debate, expensive legal wrangling and exceptionally poor ideas - some of which may well become law - before reasonable measures to address gun violence and put an end to school shootings rise to the surface.
The Gadsden Times says the market should decide on guns:
We often hear the phrase "let the market decide" attached to particular issues and situations. We'll be interested in seeing how that plays out when attached to an issue that currently is sucking much of the oxygen out of the news cycle both in print and online — guns.
It's not like that issue hasn't been percolating way past the boiling point to full-out solar intensity for a while. However, the Valentine's Day calamity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a former student armed with a rifle killed 17 people, has ramped the debate up to new levels. It also has produced action in the commercial realm, even as state and national legislators, government officials and partisans continue to scream their vendettas at each other.
In the last week, Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart and Kroger (speaking for its Fred Meyer subsidiary) announced they would stop selling guns or ammunition to anyone younger than 21. (That already is the age limit under federal law to buy handguns or handgun ammo; the limit is 18 for rifles or shotguns and long gun ammo.)
Dick's Sporting Goods also said it would stop selling military-style semi-automatic rifles, like the Florida shooter used, or high-capacity magazines to anyone.
More than a dozen other companies — including some major auto rental agencies — have dropped programs to give discounts to members of the National Rifle Association, the most high-profile and vehement opponent of increased gun regulations.
Also, underwriter Chubb Insurance and broker Lockton Affinity have discontinued their involvement with the NRA's Carry Guard program, which insures its members against liability and legal fees should they shoot someone in self-defense.
Gun rights supporters are livid and vow boycotts of their own, and blame (insert the pejorative de jour for those seeking to deny them their God-ordained, God-bestowed right to bear whatever firepower they desire) for pressuring companies to do this.
They're getting backup from legislatures in conservative states. Georgia stripped $50 million in jet fuel tax exemptions from Atlanta-based Delta over its decision to drop discounts for NRA members. Florida is poised to do the same and to rebid its state rental car contract with Enterprise Rent-A-Car after Enterprise dropped its NRA discounts.
We also expect lawsuits from people ages 18 to 20 who present themselves at a Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart or Fred Meyer sporting goods counter seeking to buy a gun, and are denied.
We expect them to fail, because federal law says vendors MAY sell long guns and ammo to people under 21. It's impossible to predict how every judge will rule, but we see nothing in the law that compels anyone, on pain of civil or criminal punishment or financial penalties, to sell a gun to someone.
As for the actual or threatened boycotts, we say to both sides — those who want stronger gun regulations and those in the "from my cold, dead fingers" brigade — have at it. Really let the market decide instead of just saying those words without meaning them.
See who gets punished and who gets rewarded.
See whose sales and stock prices go up, and whose go down. (Sadly, more people vote with their wallets than with ballots these days.)
See if governmental arm-twisting as in Florida and Georgia produces results, or if companies respond by packing up their toys and moving elsewhere. (Delta has gotten a lot of invitations.)
See who wins the social media battles. (Warning: Kids and millennials are much more familiar with that landscape than their elders.)
Georgia's lieutenant governor said of the situation with Delta, "Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back."
However, corporations generally don't possess that level of partisanship, despite what people on the extremes might think. Their focus is on maximizing money for themselves and their stockholders — period — and that motivation, not any passionate belief in causes, will drive their actions.
You want to know where this will end up, if there will be any changes? Follow the cash, not legislative machinations or the pronouncements of pundits. The cash has more clout.
Tuscaloosa News says attempts to carry out the state's death penalty have gone from bad to worse:
We are barely into the third month of 2018 and already the state of Alabama's attempts to carry out the death penalty have gone from bad to worse.
In late January, 30 minutes before he was supposed to die, the court stayed the execution of Vernon Madison because there were questions as to whether he could understand why he was being killed.
Madison, 67, has been on death row for more than three decades after having been found guilty of the murder of Mobile police officer Julius Schulte. His attorneys say multiple strokes have left Madison with dementia and he no longer has a memory of his crime. They also say he is legally blind, cannot walk on his own and has urinary incontinence. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the state will continue to pursue Madison's execution.
In late February, Alabama tried to kill Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, in what has been described as a horrifically botched execution. Hamm, who has spent more than 30 years on death row for the murder of Patrick Cunningham, a motel clerk in Cullman, has been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. While strapped to a gurney for more than two-and-a-half hours, Hamm was repeatedly punctured through his groin as officials attempted to find a vein for the lethal injection. Half an hour before his death warrant was to expire, the state called off the execution. U.S. Chief District Judge Karon Bowdre was set to begin a review of the execution attempt last Tuesday.
On April 19, Alabama is scheduled to execute Walter Leroy Moody, 83, the oldest inmate on the state's death row. Moody was convicted of killing federal appeals court judge Robert Vance with a pipe bomb he mailed to Vance's home in Mountain Brook in 1989.
Thirty years is a long time to wait to die, but the state is persistent. Alabama has spent a lot of money and a lot of energy to usher out these old and infirm inmates before nature takes its course. We're sure a lot of readers would agree that Madison, Hamm and Moody are examples of why the death penalty process should be shortened. But there are six men in the past 25 years who are glad it wasn't.
Walter McMillian was convicted of murder and sentenced to die in 1988 in Monroeville. On March 2, 1993, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals voted 5-0 to exonerate him and set him free. He sat on death row for six years. Larry Randal Padgett was sentenced to death in 1992. Five and a half years later, he was exonerated. Gary Drinkard was sentenced to death in 1995. In 2001 he was exonerated. Wesley Quick was sentenced to death in 1997. He was exonerated in 2003. Daniel Wade Moore was sentenced to death in 2002. He was exonerated in 2009.
Anthony Hinton was sentenced to death in 1986. He was exonerated in 2015, after awaiting his execution for 29 years for crimes he did not commit.