Keep The Holsters Empty

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Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, an organization that advocates students should be allowed to carry weapons at colleges, is currently celebrating “empty holster” week.

Some students will wear empty holsters to school this week as “an act of silent protest against laws and policies banning licensed concealed carry on campus,” according to the organization’s website. So it goes at college these days.

It’s difficult to surmise how many Oklahoma students are participating in the event, but the state does have a chapter of the organization, with campus leaders at 12 Oklahoma colleges The organization has more than 44,000 friends on its Facebook page.

Ostensibly, the group’s main argument is simply this: People should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus so they can respond in a shooting or other violent episode at their schools. The organization was formed after tragic 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which left 32 people dead.

Certainly, the specter of campus violence is always disturbing, and colleges have and will continue to implement safety measures and protocols, but allowing guns on campus could make schools more dangerous.

College presidents and law enforcement officials in the state have opposed the idea, arguing most people are not trained to respond with a weapon in an emergency situation.

What about over-zealous students who might erroneously respond to some situations? What about emotionally distraught students who have immediate access to weapons in classrooms and might act out compulsively? What about gun accidents? The potential for violence could increase, not lessen, if guns are allowed on campus.

Let’s hope the holsters remain empty when it comes to college campuses.

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Coburn Spectacle: Latest Political Stunt Hurts Unemployed

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U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s latest political stunt will hurt unemployed Oklahomans and Americans.

Coburn has become the spokesperson for a Republican effort to stop an extension of unemployment benefits. This comes at a time when the national unemployment rate stands at 9.7 percent. The GOP, with Coburn leading the way, blocked a bill that would spend $9 billion for the extension, arguing the extension should be implemented in a “fiscally-responsible manner.”

The GOP move is nothing more than political theater that could have serious and damaging repercussions for American and Oklahoma families facing hardship during the country’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Here’s what Coburn has to say to the nation’s unemployed in a recent press release:

The American people and the rest of the world understand that our debt and deficits are as much of an emergency as our unemployment rate. The American people also understand the best unemployment benefit is a job. An economy with as much debt as our simply can’t create jobs at the rate we need them. Members of Congress who choose to ignore this reality will, soon enough, be replaced with people who understand this reality and choose to live and govern within it.

In other words, lose your home and starve because we have some political posturing we need to do before the November elections. Note the “replaced with people” language. This isn’t about fiscal responsibility. This is campaign rhetoric for the Republican Party.

Coburn has also tried to argue Democrats are responsible for holding up the bill, but that’s disingenuous at best.

The cruel truth is the GOP is making a calculated political move at the expense of people without jobs. It may play well with certain groups of employed Americans, especially the anti-Obama faction, but it’s still the wrong thing to do.

Lately, Coburn has been throwing the word “immoral” around when he talks about the federal deficit, but what about hurting people who want to work but can’t find jobs. Why isn’t that a moral issue for Coburn?

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Budget Catastrophe?

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David Blatt, who operates the Oklahoma Policy Institute, points out in a recent and insightful blog post that next year’s state budget could require steep and even catastrophic cuts.

Blatt estimates the budget shortfall at $800 to $850 million for fiscal year 2011. The budget would be $1.55 billion less than this year and, if no new revenue is used, could result in 12 percent cuts at state agencies, he argues. That would be in addition to recent cuts.

The results would be devastating.

His comments echo those of Gov. Brad Henry. According to a NewOK article published Wednesday, Henry said:

If we don’t do some things, and we rely totally on cuts to agencies, we will devastate state government. Virtually every agency to date through the 2010 budget has received close to a 15 percent budget cut.

Cutting agencies’ budgets even more is really a choice, Blatt argues. He writes:

… closing the budget gap through an exclusive reliance on deeper cuts is a choice, not an inevitability. Due to State Question 640 and the state’s political climate, outright tax increases may well be off the table. However, there are other revenue options out there. The Governor’s budget proposed over $700 million in revenue enhancements ranging from stepped-up tax collections and the elimination and suspension of tax credits to bond issues, revolving fund transfers, and fee increases. These proposed revenues served to limit additional budget cuts to an additional 2.5 percent, on average, above this year’s. His proposals are not the only, or necessarily in all cases the most feasible or plausible, options. But given the consequences that would follow from an exclusive reliance on cuts, they deserve a fair and full discussion.

What long-term damage will the state face if more drastic cuts are made to mental health services? How much will the state’s educational systems suffer with declining revenues? These are important questions that also deserve a “fair and full discussion.”

There have been signs recently that the economy is improving here, but it’s unlikely a recovery will happen quickly enough to prevent a major budget crisis. Legislators should set aside ideological posturing, implement Henry’s revenue enhancements and search for more ways to raise money.

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