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 OPINION PAGE - AUGUST 11, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Editorial
The Commerce News
August 11, 1999

Gun Controls Must Be Enforced, Strengthened
Nine people are killed by an irate day trader in Atlanta and three are gunned down by a mad co-worker in Alabama. The similarities with the Littleton, CO, school shootings are apparent.
The school shooting got wider press because it was perpetrated by children against children, but all incidents involved people not only depressed and defeated by life to the point of suicide, but also so angry as to want to take others with them when they died. Nothing better illustrates the fact that our schools are merely reflections of society when it comes to the people they educate and the problems they face. If illegal drugs are a problem in society, they will be problems in the schools; if violence is widespread in the community, violence will be widespread in the schools.
In the wake of the Colorado shootings, virtually every school district in America reviewed the way it looks at "loners," outcasts and students in general. No similar action is proposed for the workplace, where the violence is greater, the anger deeper and the individuals better able to inflict carnage.
A common denominator, unfortunately, is the firearm. The long-cherished American "right to bear arms" has mutated into a means of expressing anger, getting revenge and venting rage. While there are any number of ways of committing murder, by far the easiest and most convenient is with the firearm. When people can no longer cope with life, they are more often turning to guns as the means of what amounts to committing suicide ­ shooting those they perceive to have wronged them and then killing themselves.
Public officials, police, psychologists and pundits have expressed a multitude of theories to explain the recent rampages, but there is no one single answer. What we do know is that many people live close to the boiling point; society as a whole is more prone to demonstrating its rage now than ever before, and more capable than ever before. We have even coined a term, "road rage," to describe people whose anger erupts while they're driving.
Just as doctors must often treat the symptoms of a disease while they seek the root cause, so too should America start to address the issue of limiting access to certain firearms. The first step should be the rigorous enforcement of all current gun control laws and the extension of the Brady Bill to cover all firearm sales, particularly those at gun shows and between individuals, and severe penalties for possession of an unregistered gun. The next step should be to increase severely the penalties for the possession of firearms during the commission of a crime, the unlicensed carrying of a firearm in public and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Furthermore, legislation should be enacted to make possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle tantamount to carrying a loaded weapon in public.
Owning a firearm should be considered a privilege, not a right, the Second Amendment to the Constitution notwithstanding. Those who abuse the privilege should be severely punished and have the privilege revoked.
None of these proposed steps would be likely to deter a deranged person from taking a gun to school or to work, particularly if the perpetrator had no prior arrests. What they would do is close a major loophole in the Brady Bill that makes it easy for felons to purchase firearms, raise the penalty so that some people might think twice before carrying and using a gun in crime and extend the registration of guns through subsequent resales.
One theory is arming the public would prevent crime. Quite the opposite is proving true. It is the proliferation of guns that makes it so easy for those with criminal intent to acquire the tools of their trade. America must act decisively to make it harder and more costly for those who would use guns to rob, intimidate and kill.



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 11, 1999

Commerce
Plans Annexation
In Banks County
It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For years, Banks County officials have publicly worried about Commerce annexing parts of Banks Crossing. For years, they have publicly stated that there is a need to protect the busy interchange from the evil clutches of Commerce.
That Commerce had no designs on Banks County made no difference. The rhetoric continued.
So Commerce officials figured if they're going to be accused of coveting Banks County territory anyway, they might as well grab some.
Commerce, I am told, will annex Hardy's Store.
Using its power of eminent domain and some under-the-table bargaining, Commerce will have Rep. Scott Tolbert quietly introduce legislation in January annexing Hardy's Store and all of the land within 100 feet of it. From that point, the city can annex to the north until it acquires the old Banks County High School site. The city plans to turn the site into a minimum security prison to house detainees sentenced in Municipal Court for such crimes as noise order violation, disorderly conduct and violation of the animal control ordinance.
Why Hardy's Store?
"Well, we're losing Wal-Mart, you know," explained one city official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "Without Wal-Mart, there will be no place in Commerce to buy fishing lures or shotgun shells. We need a good place, in Commerce, where people can buy hunting and fishing gear. Hardy's Store always had a better selection than Wal-Mart anyway."
While the legislative method of annexing non-contiguous property is suspect, city officials say Tolbert, who is being roundly criticized for his dealings with Water Wise Inc., will jump at the chance to stay in the good graces of Commerce officials and voters.
"He's going to need some friends," the spokesman stated.
Rep. Jeanette Jamieson has already agreed to go along with the plot so Banks County officials will take more seriously her legislation to allow Homer to annex Banks Crossing. The city annexation will validate Jamieson's paranoia about the city's plans and virtually assure her re-election by enabling her to play the "Commerce card" in all subsequent elections.
The move will accomplish more than assuring Jamieson's perpetuation in the Georgia House. The new Commerce Detention Center will provide the city a more stable detainee labor force than it's been getting from the I.W. Davis facility in Jefferson. Commerce officials have long complained that the detainee crew for which it contracts is absent too many days. Detainees would maintain the city buildings and grounds, including the Streetscape, and could be used in other roles such as substitute school bus drivers and newspaper columnists.
In exchange for a promise of two permanent detainee crews, Banks County Commissioner James Dumas will quietly support the city's effort.
Right now this is all hush-hush, and city officials will deny everything. But when the legislation goes in the hopper in January, remember that you read it here first.
It might not be a good idea to admit you believed it, however.


Letters to the Editor
The Commerce News
August 11, 1999

Readers Voice Support For Nursing Home
Editor:
I am writing to you as a respected member of the community here in Jackson County who has nothing but the highest praise for the nursing home at BJC Medical Center. My cousin James Keith was a resident there for at least three years before he died there last week, and I consider the care he received there to be top notch. I visited him every Monday for the entire time he was a resident in the rest home, and I never found that the nurses there weren't looking after him.
In addition to that, the nurses there would call me at any time of the night if there was a change in his condition. They would also let me know right away if he needed to be admitted to the hospital. They called me the night he died, and when I arrived, there were three nurses in the room with him providing him with care in his last moments.
There is also a regular meeting at the home for residents and their families. Each person there gets a chance to speak and can either speak highly or express concern. The administrator of the nursing home then addresses any concerns that are brought up.
I also want to say that anyone who works in a nursing home is a special person. It's easy to be critical when you're not involved in taking care of someone in their last years. But how many of us would take on that responsibility? How many of us would even come to sit and visit and take a little pressure off of the nurses that work there every day?
I'm 72 years old. I told my son Willis that if anything should ever happen to me that kept me from being able to stay at home, he should take me to live at the nursing home at BJC Medical Center.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Willis "Totsy" Wilbanks
Jefferson

Working In A Nursing Home Is Difficult
Editor:
Everyone is talking about BJC Nursing Home and what happened when the state was there. I have to say that working in a nursing home is hard work, and if there is not enough help it does make it harder on the ones working to do a good job.
I worked in a nursing home for five years, and it is hard, so before you want to talk bad about the staff at BJC or any other nursing home, you need to go work in a nursing home for one day or even one hour. Then you would see that the staff does take care of the residents that are there. There need to be more CNAs at every nursing home and hospital, but when people do not want to work, you can't make them.
Tammy Wilbanks
Commerce

'Unjustly Denied' Right To Speak To School Board
Editor:
In the Commerce High School parking lot after a public board meeting, Steve Perry, chairman of the board of education, asked me, "Why are you so adversarial?" At the board of education work session Thursday night, I requested to speak before the board. Mr. Perry refused me.
Mr. Perry has been a member of the board over three years and currently is the chairman. He certainly should know the bylaws with regard to the board operations. A quote from the student/parent handbook, "be aware" that "ignorance of the law is not an acceptable excuse when rules are violated," should also apply in this case.
The Commerce City Board of Education bylaw states "Any person wishing to appear before the board of education who has not been put on the agenda will be limited to three minutes." How many other citizens have unjustly been denied the opportunity to comment on or question school issues that affect all students?
I submitted a letter to each board member in July. One issue in particular referenced behavior and discipline policies (which they voted to accept after receiving my letter). My phone number and address were on my letter. Not one member of the board phoned or wrote to question my concerns of this letter.
I challenge the board members to ask questions and I urge parents, students and faculty to get involved in the important decision-making process at these board meetings
For the record, I think Commerce Schools are among the best in the state; I'm just saying they can be better.
Jenny Harrison
Commerce


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