Highs and lows from last week

Highs and lows from last week



[UP] Congratulations to the Westerly Education Center and to General Dynamics Electric Boat for the Excellence Award they received last week from the Boston-based New England Board of Higher Education. The board was created by the six New England states in 1955 and committed the states to the shared pursuit of academic excellence. Part of its mission is to provide leadership to strengthen the relationship between higher education and the economic well-being of New England. That’s exactly what the education center and its anchor tenant have achieved since the beginning of 2017. As Amy Grzybowski, the executive director, pointed out, more than 780 students have already completed classes in shipbuilding trades, many of them taught by instructors who are former EB employees. The program has drawn national attention for its success, as state Sen. Dennis Algiere said, in “matching people up to trades, training them and giving them jobs.”

[UP] We believe there is merit in Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin’s proposal, introduced last week, that would promote state laws to hold gun owners criminally liable for negligently failing to secure their weapons. He calls it the Child Gun Access Prevention Act. It would provide funds to help states implement child access prevention laws; direct the CDC to study child gun injuries and deaths; and require gun dealers to provide safe storage information with each sale. “An unsecured gun in the home is tied to dramatically increased rates of youth suicide and unintentional child gun injuries,” Langevin said, and there have been cases in which juveniles have used parents’ guns to kill, as happened in the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting.

A report on the Texas Tribune website noted that the state already has a child access law, but it applies only to children 16 and under (the shooter was 17). According to the Giffords Law Center, 27 states have such laws. One of the strictest is in Massachusetts, where criminal liabilty applies whenever a child may gain access to a gun; the Connecticut and Rhode Island statutes apply when a child uses the firearm to cause death or serious injury. After the latest mass school shooting, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked “What can we do now? One, if you’re a parent and you own guns, lock your guns safely away.”

That’s common-sense advice, but difficult in practice, since studies have found that most children know the location of their parents’ firearms. And what constitutes safe storage? In a tragic case in Eastern Connecticut, John Cluny, of Norwich, who lost his wife and son in a 1993 shooting, most likely thought his handgun was secure, but the 15-year-old neighbor who broke into his house found the key. Lawmakers need to discuss the specifics of effective gun storage. Ultimately a general shift in public attitudes, aided by persuasive communications, will prove more effective than punitive legislation. It’s ingrained now that seat belts save lives, and most people buckle up. The same thing has to happen to improve gun security.

[DOWN] Gambling fever is upon us, in both Connecticut and Rhode Island, as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the federal ban on sports betting. It seems a foregone conclusion that both states will allow these wagers: The questions now under debate are who will control and profit from these ventures, and whether the states should also allow onling gambling. Gov. Dannel Malloy is preparing for a special legislative session on these issues in Connecticut. In Rhode Island, the assumption seems to be that sports betting is already allowed by virtue of casino questions that were approved in referendums. The Twin River casino would offer sports betting in  partnership with the lottery. Sports leagues such as the NBA have also pushed for a cut of the action through a 1 percent “integrity fee” — a proposal that has been widely panned in the gaming industry. There is no such fee in Nevada, where the sports books made $249 million off $4.9 billion in sports wagers last year.

Politicians look at numbers like these and imagine solutions to their fiscal woes, but critics see a new set of social problems. In an article by The CT Mirror,  state Sen. Tony Hwang, a Republican from Fairfield, was quoted as saying that “‘Everybody’s doing it’ doesn’t mean we should.” The National Council on Problem Gambling, he said, looks at online and sports gambling as “gateway drugs,” doubly addictive for teenage males with smartphones. 


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