Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Daily News of Bowling Green on Obama's gun actions:
"Criminals don't care about the laws we pass with regards to guns. They never follow the law, that's why they're criminals."
- U.S. Sen. and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, in reference to President Barack Obama's executive action last week regarding gun control.
Rubio is right on.
Obama, once again bypassing Congress and attempting to chisel away at the Second Amendment, announced plans that he believes will make it tougher for criminals to obtain firearms. In his tearful announcement, Obama said his action would expand the number of sales subject to background checks.
Under current law, licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers, but Obama took it much further by saying that websites, gun shows and flea markets will be subject to having gun purchasers go through background checks. Obama said individuals "in the business of selling firearms" must be licensed gun dealers, a process that can take as long as a year, and, if they are not licensed, the offenders will be prosecuted. About the only part of Obama's action that makes sense is a plan to spend $500 million to "increase access to mental health care" and increased reporting of "relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons."
Obama says the government should deem anyone "in the business" of selling guns to be a dealer, regardless of where he or she sells guns. The government will also consider how many guns a person sells, how frequently and whether those guns are sold for a profit. People such as friends and family who sell guns to one another would be subject to background checks under Obama's action.
We're surprised the president didn't go one step more and subject people who inherit a gun from a parent to a background check.
These executive actions will do nothing to stop criminals from obtaining guns. All this action will do is place an unfair burden on law-abiding gun owners. That's it.
Obama says his action was brought on by the mass shootings in our homeland in recent years. Of course, the deaths that occurred in these shootings are tragic and innocent lives were lost. But what Obama hasn't mentioned — and didn't mention in his speech Tuesday — is that all of the guns used in these mass shootings were purchased legally.
What this president doesn't get is that criminals who shoot up a place don't follow the laws in general. If they are intent on getting a firearm, they will get one illegally, like those who are killing each other every day in cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles.
Obama is simply governing by decree, but any action that impacts the Bill of Rights is deserving of action by the people's representatives in Congress.
Remember that in 2008, while running for president, Obama said, "The biggest problem we're facing right now has to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that's what I'll change when I'm president of the United States."
These comments are hypocritical and show a president who didn't live up to his rhetoric.
Other presidents before Obama, both Republicans and Democrats, have issued executive actions, but none as extreme as Obama's have been. One only has to look at his immigration executive action last year, where he completely bypassed Congress and used executive action to ram his policy though.
Thankfully, it had an injunction put on it, and this executive action may as well, because there are real questions whether this action is constitutional.
Obama, whose legal expertise is supposed to be in the area of constitutional law, was on record as saying he didn't have the constitutional authority to take the executive action he ultimately did regarding immigration.
In the end, Obama's action on guns will do absolutely nothing to curb gun violence other than mental health information sharing. But at least he made his liberal anti-gun base happy, which was his real intent in the final analysis.
The Lexington Herald-Leader on needle exchanges:
It's sad that an epidemic of drug abuse and death is forcing a congressman from the hills of rural Kentucky to learn the science of opiate addiction. But we can all be grateful that U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers is rising to the challenge, and in the process, providing informed leadership to other Kentuckians in state and local government.
At Rogers' behest, Congress quietly lifted the longstanding ban on federal funding of needle exchanges. Majority Leader and fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell shepherded the change through the Senate as part of the omnibus spending bill.
Congress acted at the end of a year in which Kentucky's legislature passed a law to combat the rapid increase in heroin use, including authorizing the creation of needle exchanges. Health departments in Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky are operating the state's first three exchanges.
In a statement, Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said: "While I still oppose the use of federal funds to subsidize illicit drug use, I also believe many organizations administering syringe-exchange programs at the state and local level are uniquely poised to provide much-needed intervention for those struggling with addiction.
"This epidemic requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and we expect these federal resources to be used to provide desperately needed wrap-around services, like counseling, education and treatment. These federal funds will allow communities that have been hardest hit by the epidemic or are at risk for a spike in cases of HIV and hepatitis C to get additional resources for this purpose."
Exchanges help stem the spread of blood-borne diseases among intravenous drug users and those with whom they have sex by providing clean needles. They also steer people into recovery, rehab and needed medical care.
Hepatitis C, which can be spread by people sharing needles, has been increasing in Kentucky at seven times the national rate and is extremely costly to treat. HIV can also be spread via shared needles, while inappropriately discarded needles create a public health hazard.
The funding ban was enacted in 1988 because of an unfounded belief that needle exchanges encourage drug use. Congress is still banning federal funds for needle purchases. But the syringes are the cheapest part of the programs.
We hope the availability of federal funds to pay for staff, space and vans will help this valuable outreach spread from urban areas into the small towns where Kentuckians are becoming infected with hepatitis and dying from overdoses in numbers far greater than the national rate.
The Kentucky New Era on maintaining national parks:
Some of the country's best known national parks — such as Mammoth Cave and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Kentucky and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee — are within an easy drive of Hopkinsville. But as noteworthy as they are, these three sites are just a small part of the National Park Service.
There are 409 properties in the federal program, ranging from the 13 million acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska to the tiny David Berger National Memorial in Ohio. It occupies just a few square yards with a sculpture honoring the memory of the American-Israeli weightlifter killed by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
This year marks the centennial of the National Park Service, and the anniversary provides some incentive to reflect on the benefits of the protected lands and renew our country's obligation to protect them for future generations.
In 1916, the service was established under President Woodrow Wilson. This followed groundwork established by President Theodore Roosevelt when he signed the Antiquities Act of 1906.
But it was President Ulysses S. Grant who authorized the first national park, Yellowstone, in 1872. It was also the first national park in the world. Yosemite followed in 1890.
Less than half of the national parks have an entrance fee. Those that do charge fees, such as Mammoth Cave, will waive the fees on 16 days this year to celebrate the centennial. Next Monday, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, is the first.
The National Park Service provides environmental, historical, cultural and economic benefits across the country.
Perhaps one of the best illustrations of these benefits can be seen at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Anyone who has driven through the crowded commercial strip in Gatlinburg, with its motels, restaurants, theaters and gifts shops, and arrived at the entrance to the national park has seen the dramatic difference between the town and the park. Without the national park, where would the commercial line have ended?
Thankfully, Gatlinburg and the park can exist side by side. The National Park Service ensures the future the Great Smoky Mountains and many other national treasures.
We should never take them for granted.