Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
Democrats should support DeWine’s better-than-nothing gun bill
Akron Beacon Journal
Gov. Mike DeWine’s “STRONG Ohio” gun-control plan isn’t all we hoped it would be. It isn’t all that most Ohioans want. But if it were to become law, it would be the one and only step in the right direction for Ohio on this issue in many, many years. For that reason, Democrats who want to see more reasonable controls on lethal weapons should back it.
We hope that the questions and challenges Democrats posed at the bill’s first hearing Tuesday were a way of getting their points across and not an indication that they’ll vote against the bill.
That’s because even though Democrats are outnumbered 24-9 in the Ohio Senate, so many Republicans are so fanatically opposed to any gun control whatsoever that Democrat votes may be required to pass DeWine’s bill. For Democrats to stand in the way would be a shame and a missed opportunity.
Senate Bill 221 doesn’t provide the two main things DeWine promised shortly after nine people were killed in the August mass shooting in Dayton — universal background checks and a “red flag” law allowing guns to be seized from people judged to be a danger to themselves or others — but it’s not nothing.
DeWine’s team tried to overcome standard Republican opposition by tweaking the concepts. While background checks for private sales would remain voluntary under the bill, it would create incentives for sellers to have them done: It would increase the penalty for selling a gun to someone who is legally barred from owning it, but sellers whose buyers passed a background check would be protected from prosecution, even if a problem with the buyer emerged later.
The workaround on a red-flag provision is stranger: Instead of allowing courts to order the seizure of guns from a dangerous person, the bill would make it easier to, in effect, seize the person. Current state law on involuntary commitments applies only in cases of mental illness; DeWine’s law would expand it to situations involving alcohol or drug addiction.
If a qualified medical professional judged an addicted person to be dangerous, then the court could order commitment with seizure of the person’s guns.
It’s odd to think that a conservative such as DeWine would expect other conservatives to have less objection to involuntary commitment of people than to temporarily seizing their guns, but that is the nature of Second Amendment absolutism.
The bill also would give courts and police officers better information by requiring more-thorough and timelier reporting of legal actions that affect whether a person can have a gun, such as protection orders, findings that a person is incompetent to stand trial and “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdicts.
It would increase penalties for several gun-related offenses, including having a weapon while legally prohibited to, improperly giving a gun to a minor and using or brandishing a gun in a crime.
These changes would represent progress. If Democrats have the opportunity to make them happen, they shouldn’t pass it up just because the progress isn’t as much as they’d like.
All Ohioans who want to see more significant gun reform have to face the political fact that it isn’t going to happen until they demand it via the voting booth. Until more Democrats and moderate Republicans show up and elect more reasonable candidates, little will change at the Statehouse.
Stricter oversight necessary from the V.A.
The suspicious deaths of 10 veterans at a clinic in Clarksburg, W.Va., has prompted federal lawmakers to finally pursue stricter oversight from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to address issues that have imperiled patient health.
These reforms are long overdue. A growing body of evidence indicates that systemic flaws have led to regional V.A. health facilities hiring unqualified doctors whose medical licenses have been revoked or suspended.
This issue has been known for some time. A 2018 inspector general report uncovered that an anesthesiologist at the V.A. Medical Center in Altoona, Pa., was administering too much anesthetic for outpatient procedures in 17 out of 20 patients. The facility had not been monitoring drug levels when assessing the anesthesiologist’s job performance. Similarly, a Government Accountability Office report from earlier this year found that V.A. employees at some facilities were not trained to verify the credentials of physicians and other medical staff.
That veterans seeking treatment at some V.A. facilities were subjected to “care” from personnel lacking in credentials and competence is a disgrace.
It is also shocking that these prior incidents did not motivate Congress to act. It was only after the start of a federal criminal investigation into the deaths of 10 people caused by unnecessary injections of insulin that legislators could find the willpower to start moving on this issue. (Investigators are still working to determine if the person or people connected to the deaths at the Louis A. Johnson V.A. Medical Center in Clarksburg were properly credentialed.)
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee recently started moving things in the right direction by unanimously approving the Improving Confidence in Veterans’ Care Act. The legislation would require the V.A. to annually audit medical centers and deliver the results to Congress over each of the next five years. It would also require the V.A. to train staff to ensure the veracity of credentials and more robust performance reviews.
The lawmakers might consider going further before the bill is voted on by the rest of Congress. John Daigh, the assistant inspector general for health-care inspections, has recommended even more intensive overhauls, including direct observation, to ensure that V.A. staff have the competency to perform their duties.
This process would be costly, but the well-being of U.S. veterans — the men and women who put their lives at stake to defend the country and its people — are well worth the expense. The proposed reforms cannot be allowed to fall the way of so many other bright ideas, not when health and lives are at stake.
Autonomous vehicles on rural roads
The Marietta Times
Ever watch a commercial for a vehicle with lots of semi-autonomous features (cameras and lasers to detect lane lines, automatic braking, that kind of thing), and think to yourself, “Well, that’s great in a city, but how would those cars work out here?”
It seems as though any system designed to work well on the straight and well-painted streets of an urban setting would just about short circuit on the roads in southeast Ohio. It is encouraging to know vehicle researchers recognize that challenge, and are coming to the Athens area to begin work on it.
Ohio State University, the Transportation Research Center and the Ohio Department of Transportation are working together with the help of a $7.5 million federal grant to research current technology and the technology needed for truly self-driving cars to operate safely on roads like ours.
Most of us can think of a road or two that will give them trouble, but that is a good thing. Consumers of (or passengers in) cars using semi-autonomous or self-driving technology in the future will be grateful it was testing in a place like this.
“Rural roadways vary more than urban roads, and we want to see how that affects the overall systems,” said Josh Every, director of advanced mobility for the TRC. Those variations include winding, narrow roads — sometimes with faded lines, and subject to weather, traction and visibility changes that can present a challenge to plenty of human drivers.
It is also encouraging to know the researchers understand rural roads will present another problem.
“In the long run, we’ll look at connectivity (how vehicles talk to one another and access data) ,” Every said.
Again, any southeast Ohio driver could tell them, challenging roads and limited data/communication access go hand in hand.
We wonder when a research team will be sent into the mountains of West Virginia.
Every acknowledged the technology for which the team is conducting research is years in the future. In the meantime, though, if you see an unusual looking vehicle collecting data on Athens County roads, take heart. If the team is looking for real answers about how to make these cars safe for ALL drivers, they are coming to the right place.