Georgia editorial roundup
By The Associated Press
Aug. 09, 2017
Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Telegraph of Macon on gun safety:
One again we are slapped in the face with the reality of statistics. Last week in Warner Robins a 4-year-old boy found a gun, we don't know exactly where, but it was somewhere inside the car where he and three other children were riding. We don't know if it was in the glove compartment or the handbag of the woman who had left the children unattended in the car while she went into a restaurant to pick up food.
What we do know is, the child found the weapon and shot himself in his leg while she was in the restaurant. As of this writing, he was being treated for his injuries in the intensive care unit of Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta.
That's the good news, because it could have been so much worse. A millimeter or two or three at any angle could have meant the young boy or one of the other children could have become one of the 1,287 statistics a study released in June from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified as children who die each year due to gun violence.
As it is, he did become one of the 5,790 American children each year to receive emergency room attention for a gun-related injury. And according to the report that looked at data from 2012 to 2014, the Warner Robins child became part of the 21 percent of injured children who shot themselves or others — unintentionally.
Before proponents of gun rights fly into a fit, this is not an anti-gun editorial. This Editorial Board believes in our Constitution's Second Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court. However, it is easy to see there are a few flaws in the reasoning behind those who advocate for what is being called "Constitutional Carry," the ability of every citizen to carry a firearm without license or permit.
We do believe the right to bear arms, if a citizen chooses to do so, carries with it a tremendous responsibility — and a set of liabilities. Each citizen, particularly those with children, needs to know what those liabilities are and weigh the odds.
Certainly, a firearm gives one the sense that they can protect themselves and their family should such a situation arise. And yes, in today's world, those situations occur. But what also can occur, according to the CDC report is that 19 children are rushed to an emergency room daily with a gun-related injury. While 53 percent of the deaths of children are due to homicides, 38 percent are suicides and 6 percent are unintentional.
Guns are inanimate objects. They can't load their own ammunition; they can't pull their own triggers and they can't put themselves out of reach from young hands who believe everything they touch is a toy waiting to be examined and played with. No, that's up to gun owners.
While the majority of gun owners do a fine job of keeping their weapons safe, there are those who are not responsible, and just like the majority of drivers obey traffic laws there are some that make everyone understand why there is a need for licensing before someone can get behind the wheel of something that can propel itself, and passengers, down a highway at 80 miles an hour. Why is it so hard to wrap our minds around the need for training before someone can get a permit to own a weapon that can propel a 9 mm bullet at 1,300 feet a second?
During training, new gun owners can be reminded that just like there is liability when one causes a automobile accident, they face consequences if they use their weapons improperly. We are not suggesting new laws. There are plenty on the books already, but as rights are expanded where licensed gun owners can carry their weapons, the other side of the coin should be shown should a mistake be made.
Unfortunately, when a gun is discharged improperly in the wrong direction and a bullet hits someone unintended, lives change. It's not a mere fender-bender an auto body shop can fix.
In the case of the Warner Robins child, charges have yet to be filed. We aren't here to second guess the Warner Robins Police Department, but unfortunately this type of incident is too often looked at as an accident rather than careless handling of a deadly weapon. If there were more bite applied when such incidents occur, maybe there would be fewer acts of carelessness?
The Brunswick News on Spaceport Camden:
It may still be a while before regular launches begin at Spaceport Camden, if they ever begin at all.
A Federal Aviation Administration study still must be completed on the environmental impact the proposed spaceport might have on the surrounding area — some of which is inhabited by people, but most of which is sensitive marshland.
The federal government tends not to move quickly on such matters, so the outcome of the study may not be known until at least the end of this year.
If Thursday's test launch was any indication, it seems Vector Space Systems is confident things are leaning toward an operational launch site right here in Coastal Georgia in the not-too-distant future.
While we still have concerns about launches over sensitive environmental areas and Cumberland Island National Seashore, among other places of interest, if the FAA finds that the site is suitable and safe, all of us in Coastal Georgia, not just Camden County, might as well make the best of it.
So let's look at the possible positives.
The first is the potential for job creation. Although some opponents have said the spaceport will not create a large number of jobs, we see potential in the ripple effect having the only commercial spaceport on the East Coast can create. Technology today uses satellite technology more and more, and in the case of Vector, smaller-scale rockets carrying smaller-scale satellites present a viable business opportunity.
Should the spaceport get off the ground and be successful, we see a future in which Coastal Georgia is at the forefront of the aerospace industry. This would be good for Glynn County, which already has a robust aerospace presence, one the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority has stated it would like to increase.
The second positive is the potential for a new type of tourist. Spaceport Camden would not likely be Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center, but several launches each year could attract crowds from around the region that come here and spend money. Thursday's test launch was not easily visible for most people, but the potential is there.
There are other possibilities as well, including development of new programs at the high school and college levels to feed what could be a burgeoning aerospace industry.
We understand concerns of crashes and environmental impacts and hope the FAA considers all of those carefully. If it finds the scientists and engineers who have been able to bring us all of the wonders of modern technology are capable of mitigating those concerns to a minimal level, we may be on the verge of a bright and exciting future for Coastal Georgia.
The Gainesville Times on civil forfeiture:
If there were any truth to political labeling, a self-proclaimed conservative would be someone you would expect to favor limited government power and to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the American legal system and the personal rights of all citizens.
Unfortunately, in the world of modern politics, that clearly isn't the case.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who would have us believe he is a conservative, has made it clear in recent weeks that he fully supports the concept of civil asset forfeiture and hopes to see that vile process used with increasing frequency during his tenure as the nation's top law enforcement officer. On this particular issue, if not others, he seems to have the support of the president.
That's too bad.
Civil asset forfeiture is perhaps the ultimate despotic power play. Simply put, it is the concept that the government can take from you what is yours if it suspects you obtained it illegally. To do so, it does not have to charge you with any crime, issue a criminal indictment or bother with the pesky notion of prosecution and conviction. And there doesn't really have to be evidence of any sort of wrongdoing.
If the government thinks that suitcase full of cash hidden in the back of your closet came from some criminal enterprise, or that there's some nefarious illegality involved in the way you deposit money in your bank account, it can take the money and never make any effort to prove you did anything illegal. If you're lucky, after months or years of effort and paying for costly legal help, you may be able to get some of it back. And you may not.
Last Sunday in The Times, we chronicled one of the most egregious examples of government run amok with the story of Andrew Clyde, an Athens gun store owner who had nearly $1 million seized from his bank account in 2013 because the government concluded he had to be making the money illegally. There were no criminal charges, no proof, no time wasted in a trial, no worries about the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — just take the money for the government's use and see if the innocent American citizen can figure out how to get it back.
Six months later, after having to borrow money to keep his business open, Clyde was able to recover $900,000 of the $950,000 the government seized. The remaining $50,000 has never made its way back to his bank account.
Sadly, Clyde's story is just one of hundreds. Federal and state authorities seize billions of dollars every year through the civil asset forfeiture process. Billions, not millions.
Worse, in a classic conflict of interest, much of the money seized eventually makes its way back to the agencies that confiscate it, providing even more incentive for agents of the government to continue this abusive practice.
Last month, Sessions made it clear that he plans to ramp up the civil asset forfeiture process, negating some minimal restrictions on seizures the previous administration in Washington had enacted. Sessions has been vocal in his support for increasing the amount of government-sanctioned theft that will take place under the guise of civil asset forfeiture.
There is some hope the renewed attention being paid to a practice that dates back to the 1700s will result in a groundswell of opposition. A survey conducted by the Cato Institute found that 84 percent of Americans oppose civil asset forfeiture, and some lawmakers, at both the state and national level, are trying to build momentum to stop the practice.
One of those is our own U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who is co-sponsoring a bill that will tighten restrictions on the government's ability to take your property without accusing you of doing anything wrong. Similar efforts are also under way at the state level all across the nation.
Since 2014, more than 20 states have passed laws to limit the process, but until change comes at the federal level, local law enforcement can often sidestep state laws by turning over seized assets to federal agencies — then wait for a benevolent Uncle Sam to return a portion of the seized assets to their departments.
In Washington, a bipartisan group of congressman, including Sen. Rand Paul, introduced legislation in the spring to limit the government's ability to use civil asset forfeiture, and at the same time to make it easier for those whose assets have been seized to get their property back.
Fox News quoted U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.,a sponsor of the bill, as saying "Every year the government takes in billions of dollars in property from those suspected of being criminals — and every year, much of that property turns out to belong to innocent people who have little recourse once their belongings have been seized."
A recent review of civil asset forfeitures by the IRS looked at 454 contested cases. In those cases, it found that 80 percent of the money that had been seized should be returned to those from whom it was taken.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has openly addressed the issue. "This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses," he wrote.
Unfortunately, those abuses are not only likely to continue, but can be expected to escalate given Sessions' commitment to civil asset forfeitures. Until Congress and state legislatures change the law in a meaningful way, or the U.S. Supreme Court rules it to be unconstitutional, the assets of every American remain at risk.
And that whole "innocent until proven guilty" concept you learned about once upon a time in civics class? It's about as hollow as a politician's promise as long as civil asset forfeiture remains the law of the land.