Email Letters: October 13, 2017

Social protest is a right of American citizens

Social protests repeat themselves. While I was in the U.S. Army, including a one-year tour in Vietnam, angry young people burned American flags to show their disagreement with that war. They were accused of disrespecting our flag. Their position was that the government was disrespecting the principles upon which the U.S. was founded and they had a duty to exercise their First Amendment rights to try to effect change. Protest was right then and it is right now.

As a child I was incredulous to read news reports of lynchings that were neither prosecuted nor punished. Lynchings have disappeared but racism has not. The NFL players who choose to kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence are courageously fulfilling the obligations of the Bill of Rights. It is their right and it has been effective at reminding us of how far we still have to go to live up to our Constitution. I would not kneel, but I accept their decision to do so. Disrespect is the president threatening them for following their conscience.

RICHARD M. HALL
Grand Junction

Now is not the time to turn our backs on children

Large cities and counties are growing. Their residents are earning good wages. Small cities are shrinking. Incomes are lower. This is the result of a new economy relying not on manufacturing, but on service jobs and information technology.

Big cities have resources and highly educated populations to capitalize on these economic changes. They attract entrepreneurs who make things happen. We are at a big disadvantage.

To make it worse, local leaders talk about manufacturing, but that is the past. They pursue extractive industries, but that is temporary. They want to be a regional medical center, but health care professionals won’t come here because of poor schools.

Smaller cities and counties have to have good public schools to survive. The new economy requires well-educated people and they, in turn, require good schools for their children. As the national economy changes, Grand Junction and Mesa County must change. Some people will be glad to live in a backwater town with poor schools and few amenities. They write letters claiming kids can learn in a collapsing building with a leaky roof. They are too cheap to have a full school year. They insult teachers and students with outdated “facts.” Good students and teachers flee to bigger cities.

We are retired. We don’t have any children in local schools. We will, nevertheless, vote for 3A and 3B. We don’t want to live in a failed city or county with no young, innovative people. Universal public education was an American innovation nearly 400 years ago – it helped America succeed. Now is not the time to turn our backs on children.

And if the school bond and sales tax issues (hopefully) pass, then local leaders must look to information technology and recreation for the future, not manufacturing and natural gas.

GENE GOFFIN
Glade Park

Carnage in Las Vegas is collateral damage of the Second Amendment

The carnage in Las Vegas has happened before and it will happen again. As long as our society continues to allow most people under most circumstances to own as many guns as they like, we should accept this for what it is, collateral damage of the Second Amendment.

DOUGLAS DIEKMAN
Fruita

The problem is not with our weapons, but with our culture

Sean Goodbody’s statistics on guns only portrays one side of Americans and their guns and leaves no room but to draw a negative conclusion on guns. He sited many statistics regarding guns but omitted positive statistics.

He failed to mention that the more than 10 million hunters in the U.S. each own several guns and put food on their tables. More importantly, he completely omitted defensive gun use by armed citizens. Although DFG statistics are a controversial subject, there is a good chance you are better off against someone intending you harm by brandishing a gun. He also failed to mention those places that have very restrictive gun laws and still have many gun related deaths and injuries.

People harm people regardless of the weapon of choice, whether it is a gun, knife, bomb, vehicle, words, discrimination, etc. The problem is not with the weapons; the problem is cultural.

WES SUTTERLIN
Grand Junction

Support statewide air quality control standards to protect all Colorado citizens

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission is currently considering whether to strengthen air pollution standards for oil and gas facilities to address ozone pollution – and they are taking official input from Coloradans like us. These standards could have tremendous impacts on the air we breathe, but as currently proposed will only apply to the Front Range.

It is good news that the state is taking action to address ozone issues on the Front Range. However, we must ensure that these rules apply to all of us. In Western Colorado, we have our own problems with air pollution, especially during our winter inversions.

Yes, overall we still meet national ambient air quality standards, however this could change if we don’t act to keep it that way. As Mesa County’s own Health Department has documented, we are developing ozone levels during the summer months that sometimes exceed national standards. According to the American Lung Association, over 17,000 people in Mesa County alone have respiratory ailments. Why wait for our air quality to get as bad as the Front Range before taking steps to improve it? This is especially important in light of the increase in drilling proposals in Mesa County.

There are cost-effective solutions to reduce ozone and methane pollution associated with drilling, such as requiring companies to find and fix leaks on a regular schedule at all of their wells. And there is no reason these standards should not apply to companies here on the West Slope, protecting the health of all Coloradans and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The AQCC should support strong statewide standards to protect all citizens of the state.

KRISTIN WINN
Grand Junction

Sensible gun laws can indeed make a ‘difference in the mayhem’

Both Jim Gesick (“The statistics on guns are irrelevant to the argument”) and Christopher Menzies (“We must control how people get hands on drugs, not guns”) offer interesting – even if somewhat contradictory – perspectives on the issue of gun safety/control laws.

Gesick first argues that gun casualty statistics are “irrelevant” – except as they might help explain the causes of the statistically significant “increase in violence involving guns” (particularly, those involving semi-automatic assault weapons), but then reverts to the tired NRA mantra that “guns don’t kill people, people do” (when, typically, neither guns nor people actually kill people “per se” – bullets do).

Jim then raises the classic “chicken or egg” question of which comes first – a change in culture leading to a change in laws, or enactment of laws which operate to change the underlying culture? Given the examples from the Old Testament (in which enactment of the Ten Commandments changed Hebrew culture) and from Australia (where an assault weapons ban enacted in 1996 has dramatically reduced the incidence of mass shootings), Gesick’s insistence that “the problem is the culture not the guns” is just another dodge.

Rather, every successive mass shooting incident proves just how wrong the NRA’s and Gesick’s “laws won’t make any difference” position is by providing further anecdotal evidence that sensible gun laws – universal background checks, closing the “gun show loophole,” re-enacting the assault weapons ban, and limiting high-capacity magazines and fully-automatic conversion kits – can indeed make a “difference in the mayhem”.

By contrast, Menzies raises the “walk and chew gum” trope, arguing that gun violence statistics are not “irrelevant” but rather suggest we should be focusing on opioids rather than on guns (as if we can’t do both). Revealingly, the NRA vigorously opposes any effort to treat gun violence as a public health issue akin to the opioid crisis – because doing so would inexorably lead to the enactment of sensible preventive measures to protect public health without “taking way the rights of law abiding citizens.”

BILL HUGENBERG
Grand Junction

Money for schools and services comes from working people who work

One of the major news stories is about the fires in California and the people displaced by the storms etc. The recent fires alone have put more smoke and pollution into the air in a few weeks than our coal fired power plants. That does not include other fires we’ve had before this and the volcanic eruptions. Just think of how much all those displaced people now care about the power plants, the refineries, the coalmines, and the gas wells.

Our government in Washington and local governments have, for the last 20 years, shot themselves in the foot. The money to have schools and other services comes from working people who work.

RAFAEL A. SALAZ
Grand Junction

People want to live and work in a community that invests in education

On behalf of The Lower Valley Hospital Association, dba Family Health West, Board of Trustees, we submit this letter of support for the 2017 Bond and Mill Levy for School District 51. Family Health West is an employer of approximately 500 people. Never in recent history have we had this level of difficulty recruiting and retaining not only physicians, but also specialists, nurses, and therapists.

In analyzing the reasons why a person or family may or may not move to the Grand Valley, the No. 1 complaint we hear during the recruitment process is concern about the local school system. People want to live and work in a community that invests in education and invests in their children. When they see dilapidated buildings, the enormous disparity of funding received locally and from the state, along with a shorter school year, many choose not to remain or relocate here. The expectations and standards desired for their children are not being met.

These concerns also extend to professionals already living in the Grand Valley. Our kids are learning out of decades-old textbooks. There is a severe lack of accessibility to technology. Three weeks less time in the classroom annually negatively impacts learning and family schedules. There are many positive aspects of living in the Grand Valley including vast recreational opportunities, arts, culture, community events and festivals. There have been large investments in these areas and we’ve seen great returns. Now is the time to invest our money and efforts in our children and their education.

Healthcare is the number one economic driver and largest employee-based industry in the Grand Valley. It’s not just a vital part of every individual living in the Grand Valley; it’s a vital part of our economy as well. We all suffer when we cannot recruit or retain talent. If we want to make our community the best it can be, we have to invest in our schools. Our kids’ futures, our economic future, and the future of our healthcare system rely on it. Really, it starts with kids.

Please join with The Lower Valley Hospital Association Board of Trustees by voting Yes on measure 3A and 3B.

THE LOWER VALLEY HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION
DBA FAMILY HEALTH WEST
M. BLAINE BUCK

Governing Board Chair


COMMENTS

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Thanks to Wes Sutterlin (“The problem is not with our weapons, but with our culture”) for trying to portray “the other side” of the gun statistics offered by Sean Goodbody’s column (“I list the facts, you draw the conclusions about America’s relationship with guns”; Oct. 11, 2017) – and for providing “positive statistics” that prove Sean’s point.

First, the 10 million hunters who own several guns suitable for hunting and who consume their presumably legal kill are not at issue.  Unfortunately, Sutterlin “failed to mention that”—once upon a time – such hunters constituted the core membership of the NRA and favored sensible gun safety regulations (including background checks and the assault weapons ban).  However, since gun manufacturers took effective control of the NRA’s message, its primary purpose is maximizing the sale of weapons ill-suited for hunting.

Second, as Justice Scalia opined in the Heller case, the Second Amendment implies an individual right to “keep and bear arms” for self-defense – also not at issue.  Meanwhile, there is little evidence that anyone needs a semi-/fully-automatic assault rifle for self-defense (much less, for legally hunting game), but Sutterlin also “failed to mention that” Scalia expressly excepted “dangerous” and/or “unusual” weapons from his holding.

Third, despite the presumed deterrent effect of “brandishing a gun” when confronted one-on-one by someone “intending you harm”, analyses of mass shootings suggest that – even if confronted by an armed security guard or school teacher – a determined shooter with an assault weapon and multiple high-capacity magazines is not so likely to be deterred.

Fourth, while no single law can prevent random mass shootings, Sutterlin “also failed to mention those” recent studies showing the restrictive gun laws can and do result in less gun violence.  See, e.g.:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/upshot/how-to-reduce-mass-shooting-deaths-experts-say-these-gun-laws-could-help.html and https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/4/16418754/gun-control-washington-post; 
Therefore, applying Sutterlin’s own logic to the fact that “people harm people regardless of the weapon of choice”, the common sense approach is to restrict that choice to less lethal weaponry while preserving the rights of hunters to hunt and of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.

What Sutterlin also “fails to mention” is that – under current law – both actual and potential criminals (including spouse abusers), the mentally infirm, and even would-be terrorists can purchase multiple weapons of mass destruction (and ample ammunition) at a gun show with no background check and no waiting.  What kind of “culture” is that?

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