St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 3
For three years in a row, Missouri has produced a dubious achievement that experts predict will soon be the national norm: Beginning in 2011, gun deaths in Missouri — including suicides — outpaced deaths in motor vehicle accidents, long the leading nonmedical cause of death in every state.
In 2013, the most recent year for which such statistics are available, the Centers for Disease Control reports that firearms were responsible for 880 deaths in Missouri. That year 779 people across the state died in motor vehicle accidents.
Consider nine deaths in two days last week.
First, state Auditor Tom Schweich ended his life with a single gunshot wound to the head, an apparent suicide, according to Clayton police. The next day, Joseph Henry Aldridge went on a violent shooting spree in Texas County, killing seven, injuring several others, and finally turning his gun on himself.
All of this gun violence makes a ruling last week by St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker that much more important.
In a case brought by Raymond Robinson, a convicted felon facing a gun possession charge, Judge Dierker ruled that because of the passage of Amendment 5 last November, Missouri law banning felons from owning guns is now unconstitutional.
This is the result of a poorly worded amendment and was feared by prosecutors, including Jennifer Joyce of St. Louis and Jean Peters Baker of Kansas City. It was the prediction of St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and Mayor Francis Slay. You can read their reaction to the ruling on the opposite page.
And, yes, this editorial page predicted it, too. It took no particular bolt of insight to figure out this would happen.
Amendment 5 was pushed by state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature (as well as a few Democrats afraid of the National Rifle Association). Amendment 5 was promoted not because Missouri had any shortage of guns nor weak gun-ownership laws. It's on the books because Mr. Schaefer was seeking a political victory. He is running for attorney general, and until he decided to start acting like a pandering fool, he had a reputation as a smart, reasonable moderate who could someday earn election to a statewide office.
Fearing he couldn't win a rough-and-tumble primary against more extreme candidates, Mr. Schaefer sought to burnish his right-wing bonafides. Never mind that Missouri's Constitution long has had gun ownership protections at least as strong as the actual Second Amendment. Mr. Schaefer and his pals sought to make it stronger.
Instead, they made us less safe, putting reasonable restrictions in jeopardy, including the one now invalidated by Judge Dierker. His thoughtful opinion sought every possible way around the "unalienable" right to gun possession now guaranteed in the state constitution and the requirement that "strict scrutiny" be applied to the law.
That second part means that the words have to be interpreted exactly how they're written. Mr. Schaefer's lame excuse that Amendment 5 doesn't mean what it says — as Judge Dierker writes — is meaningless.
So here's the state of gun play in Missouri: In a state in which there are more gun deaths than traffic deaths, in which toddlers are grabbing mommy and daddy's guns and firing away, in which cities are being told by a Legislature there is nothing they can do about gun violence, now convicted felons can own guns and there is nothing the police can do about it.
Columbia Tribune, March 2
After years of political struggle, the Federal Communications Commission finally voted to regulate the Internet as a utility, giving the agency more power to oversee cable and telecom operators. As it so often is in recent years, the issue broke into partisan factions: Republicans bitterly opposed the change as unwarranted interference in the private marketplace, and Democrats supported the new policy as needed to head off likely abuses by the Internet's most powerful players.
The commission voted 3-2. Anticipating the outcome, the two Republicans complained for weeks ahead of time. The commission chairman, a Democrat, promised his agency has no intention of imposing onerous rules such as control of pricing, but the new ground rules do allow broader interpretation by commissioners.
The move came in response to worries large carriers such as Verizon and Comcast were likely to set variable access rates favoring large users. The new rules intend to ensure no content will be blocked and the Internet will not provide faster service for "pay to play" rich companies and slower service for everyone else. A broad array of users such as Google and Facebook support the new rule.
The Internet developed from scratch as a sort of Wild West enterprise. Everyone supports this sort of free-enterprise development, but now that the Internet has become so large and ubiquitous, supporters of new regulation see growing opportunities for monopolistic abuse.
The new oversight is based on Title II of a 1934 law regulating telephone service, which was undergoing a similar metamorphosis.
The new FCC rule won't take effect for several months and surely will be challenged in court. It has been written to meet earlier court complaints. We should expect it to survive.
The market barely took notice of the new FCC stance. In the Netherlands, where a similar change is more than two years old, little has changed. Cable and telecom operators have not raised prices. Service has not degraded. Over there, as here, expanded oversight is popular.
It's the same old story: In the abstract, everyone likes minimum government regulation over private business, but when certain services become basic and essential, government regulation will become necessary. Now that the day is here for the Internet, the official hand should be kept as light as possible.
Joplin Globe, March 1
Without a notecard, without a script and without a pause, Tom Schweich spent 30 minutes listing the work he and his staff had been doing since he was elected auditor and quickly made a case as to why he wanted to be the next governor of Missouri.
The man appeared confident before a room filled with reporters, editors and publishers representing all sizes of Missouri newspapers.
It was the annual Associated Press Day at the Capitol. Schweich, and later Catherine Hanaway, also an announced Republican contender for governor, both talked with the press.
Two weeks later many of those same members of the press were in shock after hearing the news on Thursday morning that Schweich was dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The state auditor, who had taken an oath of office in January after being re-elected to a second term, worked at a record pace for the taxpayers.
During his time in office, his staff turned out about 570 audits.
Nor did they stop working. On Friday, the office released an annual report bearing its boss's name about property seizures by law enforcement agencies.
And on Tuesday, the day of Schweich's funeral, Joplin will learn about the results of the state audit of the Joplin School District, which Schweich had planned to deliver himself at a press conference.
There is no doubt that Schweich improved the way audits are handled in this state. He stepped into the role well-qualified. Before becoming auditor, Schweich served in the Bush administration as an ambassador-level State Department official and traveled to Afghanistan four times to deal with the nation's drug trade.
(Cape Girardeau) Southeast Missourian, March 2
The overarching sentiment from those not politically charged over the Keystone Pipeline veto is that it was another overly-dramatized political battle.
Indeed, that seems to be the case.
For a president who has rarely used his veto power, we're left scratching our heads as to why Obama would use it here.
The Keystone pipeline already exists. Massive amounts of oil are moved along an existing pipeline. In fact, there are pipelines all over the country.
If built, the new section of pipeline would provide a reliable source of oil from Canada. The pipeline would also allow for the transport of crude from shale formations in North Dakota, "at a time when there are still 250 million vehicles on U.S. roads," according to USA Today.
The pros and cons on either side of the debate were overstated, as seems to be the case with everything that turns political.
The economic boom wouldn't have been as big as predicted by conservatives; and the potential environmental effects would not have been as dire as predicted by environmentalists.
But this project would mean a lot to our Canadian neighbors, a strong ally. It would further protect the United States from the whims of Middle East oil economics. It would provide jobs. Could there be environmental consequences? Perhaps. Every pipeline has that potential, but so does every truck and train that hauls the stuff, which, by the way, we all need and use.
The president showed his hand when he vetoed the pipeline project. Extreme environmentalism has more sway with the president than other considerations, including jobs and economics. This was a project supported by both parties.
The president went against the grain, and common sense, by rejecting Keystone.
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