Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit Free Press. Dec. 3, 2021.

Editorial: Wake up, lawmakers. No one supports Michigan’s gun status quo

Our hearts are with the parents of the four students slain Tuesday in Oxford, a hell no parent should have to endure; and with the seven others wounded in the same attack. We pray for their swift, full recovery.

We sympathize as well with parents who felt death brush past their children; with teachers who prayed they’d never stand between their young charges and a murderer, and with hundreds of Oxford High students whose hopes that that their school could provide a sanctuary from senseless violence have been forever shattered

Fifteen-year-old Ethan Crumbley, a sophomore at Oxford High School, was arraigned Wednesday on 22 counts related to the brutal attack, carried out with a semi-automatic handgun purchased by his own father just four days before. He is being tried as an adult, and faces life in prison.

Some will say that nothing can be done to prevent such attacks. Oakland County officials report that Crumbley’s parents met with school administrators over the boy’s classroom behavior just hours before the attack, but found no cause to send him home. Crumbley’s father, it seems, purchased his firearm legally.

Those same voices will argue that the hundreds of millions of firearms already in private hands make new restrictions on their sale or manufacture futile, and that any attempt to promulgate such restrictions will only violate the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners

We disagree.

There are sensible measures that state and federal lawmakers can adopt without risk of violating anyone’s constitutional rights, if they have the courage to face down the manufacturers and Second Amendment absolutists who call the gun lobby’s tune. We can’t guarantee that any of them will dramatically reduce gun deaths. But not trying them hasn’t worked, either.

A comprehensive approach

Gun violence has three prongs: High profile massacres like the devastating attack in Oxford, which are thankfully rare; shootings associated with crime and gang activity; and suicide. Public policy solutions should recognize all three.

Let’s start with Michigan.

More than 1,200 people die and more than 3,500 are wounded by handguns each year in Michigan, according to the gun reform advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, Most of the fatalities are suicides.

Guns are the second-leading cause of death among children and teens; 89 die on average each year. More than half of youthful gun deaths are homicides.

Michigan’s figures roughly track national averages. There have been 29 gun-related injuries or deaths on American school grounds this year, Education Week reports.

Poll after poll confirms Michiganders’ support for prohibiting guns in schools, daycare centers and churches, enacting red flag laws that would keep guns out of the hands of people who pose an imminent threat to themselves or others, and other precautions ensure the safe storage and handling of firearms. And Democratic lawmakers in the GOP-controlled state Legislature have tried to deliver, proposing laws that would require universal background checks, make gun owners criminally liable for failing to secure weapons where children cannot find them them, ban weapons from state-owned public buildings, and increase funding for violence prevention programs. A bill with bipartisan support would keep weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers.

The same partisan gridlock that has left all those initiatives stalled in committee has stranded Republican efforts to weaken Michigan’s existing gun laws. Legislation proposed by GOP lawmakers would exempt some firearms owners from complying with gun-free zones, abolish the state’s pistol registry, reduce the fee for a concealed-carry permit, and exempt gun stores from shutdown orders imposed pursuant to a public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the local level, Detroit Police Commissioner Linda Bernard has proposed a gun buy-back similar to initiatives that have taken thousands of guns out of circulation in Seattle, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Although buy-backs have had mixed results in reducing gun violence, it’s an idea worth exploring.

A role for Washington

There’s also work for our federal government.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was forbidden to study the causes of gun violence for nearly a quarter century after 1994, when Congress adopted the Dickey Amendment — named after the lawmaker who called himself “the NRA’s point man in Washington.”

But in 2018, former President Trump signed legislation that allowed the agency to resume limited research, and the CDC’s current director, Rochelle Walensky, has expanded the agency’s efforts.

If you’re inclined to scoff at the notion of studying gun violence, consider that the CDC also studies obesity, fatalities among firefighters, school health, fatal injuries to youth in agricultural settings, smoking, and social behavior that contributes to the spread of viruses like COVID-19. The agency’s public health writ is far-reaching, and the number of gun deaths in this country has long commanded its attention.

The CDC is investing in 18 separate initiatives to prevent gun violence and death, and it has begun tracking the number of people who come into the nation’s emergency rooms with gunshot wounds arising from assaults, suicide attempts and accidents— something it hadn’t done before.

Congress should supplement the paltry $25 million currently allocated for this important research. While they’re at it, lawmakers should increase and redeploy funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which relies on just 770 investigators to oversee more than 77,000 licensed gun dealers and manufacturers and 9,500 businesses licensed to sell explosives.

A better world

There’s no evidence that implementing any of these proposals, or all of them together, would have prevented this week’s massacre. But the tragedy in Oxford does underline how reluctant Michigan legislators have been to demand that gun owners exercise even minimal caution. Even as detectives investigate how the Oxford shooter acquired a handgun he was not authorized to own, a bill that would make failing to secure a weapon beyond the reach of minors a $500 misdemeanor is languishing in Lansing for want of GOP support.

“If the incident yesterday with four children being murdered and multiple kids being injured is not enough to revisit our gun laws,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Wednesday, “I don’t know what is.”

So far, Republican lawmakers have been immune to that sense of urgency. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says he remains wary of overregulation, and cautions that if he and his colleagues endeavor to eliminate every threat, Michiganders could wake up in a world they don’t recognize.

Shirkey means that as a warning. But as Michigan residents survey the all-too-familiar damage in Oxford, they may consider it a hopeful prospect. What would a world we don’t recognize be like? It has to be better than this.

___

Traverse City Record-Eagle. Dec. 5, 2021.

Editorial: Community colleges are part of the nursing shortage solution

Of course Michigan’s university administrators don’t want lawmakers to allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degree programs for nurses.

Those large institutions have enjoyed a state-sanctioned monopoly on most four-year degree programs for decades, and they’ve spent substantial lobbying effort to keep that corner on the market. And any move to elbow into universities’ fiefdoms, particularly by low-cost-per-credit-hour community colleges, threatens a sacred cash cow they have come to depend upon.

But what happens when allowing that singular path to a college degree contributes to our state’s dire shortage of nurses? Shouldn’t all options be on the table to ensure the flow of nurses to community hospitals in our state?

That’s why — at least to just about anybody who doesn’t draw an administrative staff paycheck from a state university — a proposal to clear the way for community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing sounds like common sense. That three-bill package, sponsored by Rep. John Roth, R-Traverse City, would allow colleges to join the pipeline, moving nurses into the workforce.

To be clear, we’re talking about opening more educational capacity at a moment when there is a severe shortage of bachelor’s degree-educated nurses nationwide. That shortage manifests itself as about 200 unfilled nursing jobs locally in the Munson Healthcare system — Munson will hire associate degree-holding nurses, but requires they obtain a BSN within the first five years of work.

That shortage is part of broad drought the American Nurses Association expects to hit 1.1 million unfilled nursing jobs in the United States in 2022, and expects to continue to worsen until 2030.

Considering those numbers, the continued lobbying against allowing competition in the four-year nursing degree market defies logic. So do assertions by university administrators that the existing arrangement (the one that benefits them financially) is working well. They contend more competition to serve nursing students seeking bachelor’s degrees would somehow cost taxpayers and would worsen the shortage.

It’s a transparent-as-glass, self-interested argument that’s much easier to see through in a region of the state where nurses have few options to continue their education while working full-time unless they’re willing to enroll in online programs or move away from home.

How would allowing a nursing student to continue living in Traverse City while attending in-person classes at Northwestern Michigan College worsen the nursing shortage? How would offering a lower-cost, closer to home option for nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree possibly worsen the nursing shortage? If the status quo works so well, why is the shortage getting worse?

How would driving working nurses out of the workforce to continue their education possibly help the shortfall?

No, university administrators who lobby against such common-sense capacity building clearly have little in mind beyond protecting the monopoly that pads their bottom line.

Their pushback is the knee-jerk reaction of an institutional structure that falls woefully short of fulfilling the needs of either taxpayers or students.

It’s time to open the door to other institutions that might be better positioned to fill the systemic gaps.

Monopolies rarely serve anyone except the people and institutions who wield them.

The one that allows universities to lord over four-year nursing degree programs is no different.

___

The (Marquette) Mining Journal. Dec. 2, 2021.

Editorial: Michigan students killed in downstate school shooting

Author Steven T. Seagle wrote, “Something isn’t fiction just because you choose not to acknowledge it.”

This has become the sad reality of American culture and it’s long past time that we address the neverending wave of school shootings in U.S. schools.

On Tuesday, a 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school, killing four students, including a 16-year-old boy who died in a deputy’s patrol car on the way to a hospital, authorities said.

Seven other people were wounded, some critically, including a 14-year-old girl who was placed on a ventilator after surgery.

Investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting Tuesday at Oxford High School, located in a community of about 22,000 people roughly 30 miles north of Detroit, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told The Associated Press.

“The person that’s got the most insight and the motive is not talking,” he said at a news conference late Tuesday.

Deputies rushed to the school around lunch time as more than 100 calls flooded 911 dispatchers with reports of a shooter. They arrested the student in a hallway within minutes of their arrival. He put his hands in the air as deputies approached, Bouchard said.

The boy’s father on Friday bought the 9 mm handgun used in the shooting, Bouchard said. He didn’t know why the man bought the semi-automatic pistol, which his son had been posting pictures of and practicing shooting, Bouchard said.

At a vigil Tuesday night at LakePoint Community Church, Leeann Dersa choked back tears as she hugged friends and neighbors. Dersa has lived nearly all of her 73 years in Oxford. Her grandchildren attended the high school.

“Scared us all something terrible. It’s awful,” Dersa said of the shooting.

It’s been 22 years since the massacre at Columbine High School. Countless murders have taken place in schools across America since that fateful day in 1999, and it appears as though our lawmakers haven’t learned a thing. It’s time we recognized that inaction isn’t working — the body count continues to rise, and in a handful of weeks, the media will shift its coverage to the next senseless act, rendering the victims of Tuesday’s tragedy a mere footnote in the long history of school shootings. We cannot allow this to be the way it works anymore.

It’s time for us to let our representatives in Washington know that enough is enough. Serious efforts and regulations must be put into place to protect our children across this country, and anything short of that is completely unacceptable.

END