Thursday, April 22, 1999

Murderous rampage
at Colorado school

Bullet The issue: Two students at a high school in a Denver suburb went on a rampage with guns and explosives, killing 15, including themselves.
Bullet Our view: Metal detectors, more counseling and stricter gun controls could prevent future tragedies.

HAS the day come when metal detectors must be installed at all middle and high schools to prevent bloodshed? The latest murderous rampage at a suburban Denver high school leaves a stunned nation searching for solutions. Metal detectors could be one of them, extreme though it may seem.

But the detectors are obviously only one possible measure, sort of a last resort. Three other areas of possible action suggest themselves:

Bullet A greater effort to identify kids with emotional problems. Not all troubled children are prone to take guns to school and start blazing away, but those who do are definitely troubled. In the Colorado case, the killers were severely alienated students who belonged to a group called the "Trenchcoat Mafia." They wore a sort of uniform of black coats, black berets and sunglasses. They reportedly were fascinated with Nazism, had made a video about guns and bragged about acquiring guns. School authorities should have known about these youths in view of their flagrant displays of defiance, and given them counseling.

Bullet Enactment of stricter gun controls. This is a nation where firearms are often readily available -- much more so than in other industrialized countries. In the Colorado case, the killers used semi-automatic weapons and explosive devices that should not have been available to them. There is no legitimate need for semi-automatic weapons and only a limited one at most for handguns -- for self-protection.

It is a sad bit of irony that the National Rifle Association, which opposes all gun-control measures, will hold its annual convention in Denver in a few days. The Colorado legislature was considering a bill, endorsed by the NRA, that would ease restrictions on concealed weapons, but it was withdrawn. The NRA has decided to cancel all seminars, exhibitions and luncheons at the convention.

Bullet These school massacres could be inspired by the fictional violence that pervades much of television, movies and computer games, as well as the real violence reported and depicted in the news media. Children should be educated to distinguish between real and fictitious violence and to understand that aberrant behavior that appears on their television screens should not be imitated.

As School Superintendent Paul LeMahieu warned, Hawaii parents should not delude themselves into thinking such tragedies could not happen here. Hawaii schools, like those everywhere else, have to prepare for the worst.


Marshall Ige’s conflict
of interest on Bronster

Bullet The issue: Whether Sen. Marshall Ige has a conflict of interest on the issue of Attorney General Margery Bronster's confirmation as attorney general.
Bullet Our view: Ige certainly has a conflict and should recuse himself.

OBLIVIOUS to standards of propriety, state Sen. Marshall Ige once again has brazenly ignored an obvious conflict of interest in vowing to vote against the confirmation of Margery Bronster to continue as attorney general. Ige has a special reason to oppose Bronster: He is a target of the attorney general's investigation of the Bishop Estate.

Last year, Bronster filed a 58-page petition in state probate court accusing Bishop Estate trustees of directing a scheme in which $18,300 in illegal contributions were paid to Ige to pay off 1994 campaign debts. Ige said in January that he would not feel comfortable sitting in on a closed-door Senate caucus with Bronster about her budget because of the petition, but now he feels no discomfort in voting against her confirmation.

Ige, who served as vice speaker of the House under Bishop Estate trustee Henry Peters when Peters was speaker, has said he knew nothing of an alleged bogus billing scheme that was used to conceal how the campaign debt was paid.

Ige first demonstrated his disregard for ethical standards last October, following disclosure of Bronster's petition, when he used his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Housing to ask Bronster for information about her office's contract with Goodenow Associates. The firm had been hired by Bronster to conduct an investigation into Bishop Estate affairs.

Senate President Norman Mizuguchi, who wrote a letter asking Bronster to accommodate Ige's request regarding the Goodenow contracts, now says he has no reason to disallow Ige from voting on Bronster's confirmation.

Governor Cayetano has correctly stated that Ige should recuse himself on Bronster's confirmation because of his conflict of interest. Common Cause Hawaii asked Mizuguchi to excuse Ige.

As the leader of Senate Democrats, Mizuguchi at a minimum has an obligation to educate Ige about ethical standards. Unless Mizuguchi tries to persuade Ige to resist casting a vengeful vote against Bronster, he will be an indirect party to this travesty.

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