S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, May 13, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0513.guns.htm


Guns in schools -- not smart
By Andy Brack, Publisher

MAY 13, 2007 - - It's a good bet you've heard this saying: "Handguns don't kill people; people kill people."

Nice line, but do you really think allowing people with concealed weapons permits to take guns on school grounds is really a smart idea? If you do, I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

Seriously, the idea to allow more guns on school and college campuses is counter-intuitive. It doesn't pass the smell test.

While those with the guns might feel safer, there's no evidence they would be a good shot in the event of a Virginia Tech-like massacre. There's no proof more guns would even serve as a deterrent to keep a nut from taking guns on campuses and opening fire. (Remember - if he or she were a nut, the simple logic of other people having guns on campuses probably would elude them because of their mental state.)

More frightening is the increased potential for violence on school grounds because more guns are there. Yes, I know people with concealed weapons permits are responsible and upstanding. Otherwise they couldn't get the permit. But just as when you add more sugar to tea and it gets sweeter, adding more guns to campuses increases risks.

That's why it is encouraging that a bill to allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun on a public school or college campus is slowing down in the S.C. House. Quick to rush a solution to "solve" any Virginia Tech-like problem in South Carolina with this bill, about 20 lawmakers signed onto the proposal by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens.

The bill likely won't come up before the end of the legislative session as lawmakers have adjourned debate on it in committee. Next year, they ought to kill it for good as an ill-considered, knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy. And then they should take a serious look at the state's handgun laws to make them tougher.

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Please know we're not suggesting taking guns away from anybody. And we're not suggesting any limits on shotguns or rifles used for hunting. We're talking about making it harder to get handguns. Regardless of any industry argument, they are not made for hunting animals. They're made for killing people.

Listen to a recent commentary by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker:

"Making it more difficult to buy guns that kill people is, however, a rational way to reduce the number of people killed by guns. Nations with tight gun laws have, on the whole, less gun violence; countries with somewhat restrictive gun laws have some gun violence; countries with essentially no gun laws have a lot of gun violence. (If you work hard, you can find a statistical exception hiding in a corner, but exceptions are just that. Some people who smoke their whole lives don't get lung cancer, while some people who never smoke do; still, the best way not to get lung cancer is not to smoke.}"

A few facts about handguns from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (www.bradycampaign.org):

  • There are about 192 million privately-owned guns in the United States, 65 million of which are handguns.

  • In 2004, 29569 people in the U.S. died from firearm-related deaths. Thirty-nine percent (11,624) were murdered; 16,750 were suicides; 649 were suicides. In the same year, firearms were used to murder 56 people in Australia, 184 people in Canada, 73 in England and Wales, and 5 in New Zealand.

  • In the U.S. in 2004, about eight children and teen-agers were killed with guns daily.

  • Gun violence has a big cost, according to a 2000 study published by Oxford University Press. Direct and indirect costs, including lost wages, medical costs and security costs, are estimated at $100 billion a year in the U.S. Some 80 percent of the economic costs of treating firearms injuries are paid by taxpayers, according to two studies from the early 1990s.

The right to bear arms is a constitutional right actualized in allowing people to own rifles and shotguns. Reducing gun violence from handguns isn't about the right to bear arms. It's about saving lives.

You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of SC Statehouse Report, at brack@statehousereport.com.

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Holidays

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

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5/9: Workers' comp reform proposal needs work still

To the editor:

Workers' compensation reform legislation will be debated May 15 in the South Carolina House. The bill passed out of the House Labor Commerce and Industry Committee fails to even address how the insurance industry sets premiums. Unless the "loss cost multiplier" is again subject to review and approval by the Insurance Commission, any "reform bill" will have little effect on rising premiums.

The "loss cost multiplier" provides insurance carriers with a method of recouping their overhead and their annual assessment from the Second Injury Fund. It also includes the insurance company's profit over and above their loss costs or payouts. Historically, this part of the premium was subject to actuarial review and approval by the Insurance Commission.

An amendment to state law a few years ago now allows insurance companies to set their own "loss cost multiplier" free from any regulatory oversight. Since this change in state law, that portion of the premium has increased almost 200 percent. This is the primary reason why workers' compensation premiums have skyrocketed in South Carolina. In other words, insurance industry profits are not even being considered in their rate base anymore.

Abolishing the Second Injury Fund will not have the anticipated result of reducing premiums in South Carolina. Both Arkansas and Oklahoma abolished their second injury funds a few years back but are now considering reinstating them.

Until our Insurance Commission is again required to scrutinize the "loss cost multiplier" as part of all premium increases, we can expect workers' compensation rates to continue to rise for South Carolina businesses. If you share my concern, please contact your House member in support of a loss cost multiplier provision in the House. The Senate's version of the bill has already included this provision. The House bill should contain the same requirement.

-- Tom Ervin, Greenville, S.C.

5/8: Ways to make a better food stamp program

To the editor:

As someone who has put in many hours (years) attempting to increase Food Stamp participation rates in S.C., please allow me to add a couple of suggestions to your excellent list [Commentary, 5/4].

Because the state loses funding based on its "error rate," application simplification has been done pretty much to its maximum. Eligibility workers have no incentive to help as Federal officials consider it an "error" and denial of funding to the State if benefits are awarded erroneously but not if they are erroneously denied. A major barrier to quick access is that it is the responsibility of the applicant to meet all the eligibility requirements, few of which they are aware of at their first visit. This requires them to not only produce hard copy of records that they probably don't have already but to also document negatives (such as proof of no rental income) and physically return to the Food Stamp office, many of which are inaccessible because of lack of transportation.

The easiest way the state could increase participation without increasing its error rate is to use its electronic records capabilities to share information among state agencies. For example, currently applicants seeking proof of date of birth must contact DHEC, pay a fee of about $5, wait several weeks for a birth certificate, and physically return to the local Food Stamp office. In this electronic age, DHEC could provide instant verification to DSS for Food Stamp applicants, saving considerable time, effort, and dollars. An alternative is to contract with local non-profits such as Lowcountry Food Bank to assist clients in completing applications. But, as I said, their is no incentive for increasing participation rates as these well-intentioned non-profits might err in favor of feeding hungry people and bring down the wrath of the public that somebody got one dollar more for food than they deserved.

-- Laura Morris, Mount Pleasant, S.C.

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Struggling with budget, DOT
From the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

MAY 11, 2007 -- Do Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) and fellow Rep. Annette Young really have the mettle to bring state government to a halt over Department of Transportation reform? That's the question that's buzzing around the Statehouse, according to one Democratic state representative who asked not to be named.

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