Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Bush’s gun-control effort
shouldn’t stop with
enforcement program

The issue: President Bush has
announced a program to bolster
prosecution of gun crimes but has
proposed no new firearms restrictions.

GUN control has not been among President Bush's priorities, and his new program to bolster efforts at prosecuting existing gun laws is modest at best. The plan consists of providing grants to states and increasing the number of federal prosecutors and accords with the gun lobby's position that no new laws are necessary. That ignores the need for federal restrictions to replace an assortment of laws that are as permeable as state boundaries.

The president has announced that a $550 million program would provide for 113 additional assistant U.S. attorneys and help pay for more state prosecutors, investigators, training and community programs. However, more than two-thirds of the funding was already in place. The part that is new is modeled after Project Exile, begun by federal prosecutors in Richmond, Va., four years ago to crack down on violators of 14 federal laws involving gun possession. Within three years, Richmond's homicide rate was reduced by half, more than 650 guns were confiscated and 325 offenders were sent to prison.

Violent crime in the United States has dropped by 20 percent in the past decade, and Bush's program should help it to shrink even more.

Even so, as he noted, the nation's violent crime rate remains one of the highest in the industrialized world. Comparisons with countries in which guns are banned are especially glaring.

Hawaii's gun laws are among the strongest in the country, but residents have no assurance of safety against illegally obtained firearms. The islands remain vulnerable because of the lack of uniformity in laws elsewhere and the ease with which guns can be brought into the state.

All firearm purchases in Hawaii require computer checks of purchasers criminal or psychological backgrounds that may take as long as two weeks to complete, although most take less than a day. Only 17 other states have similar requirements, but others allow gun purchases from unlicensed dealers at gun shows without background checks. Hundreds of thousands of individuals, including felons, make such purchases from rogue dealers at gun shows.

A package of gun safety measures, including the closing of the gun-show loophole, was approved by the U.S. Senate in 1999 but rejected by the House. A bipartisan coalition in the Senate has reintroduced the gun-show provision, with some changes, which should be enacted as a necessary complement to Bush's program.

School lunch,
brought to you
by Taco Bell

The issue: The Board of
Education is weighing ties
between schools and businesses.

As Hawaii's public education system struggles to meet student needs, the Board of Education's consideration of a proposal that would allow schools to cooperate with businesses to sponsor programs or form learning partnerships is one that deserves examination.

Although businesses can help schools offer materials and activities that would be unavailable otherwise, the board should set limits about how much, by whom and for what. It should be careful to resist companies whose goals for marketing and sales and whose products may not mesh with the primary purpose of promoting scholarship.

Some schools already have partnerships with businesses for funding and materials. Foodland, for example, helps schools raise money for computers. The supermarket has customers choose a school and awards points for computers to that school when the customer buys a designated product.

Although Foodland doesn't put up signs to promote its stores, others have. Frito-Lay, the snack food producer, displays banners with the company's name in cafeterias of its selected as "Blue Ribbon Schools."

About 40 schools raise money for such things as band uniforms and yearbooks through vending machines that pay them a commission on beverage sales. Commercial messages are limited to a sign on the machine itself, but the products sold may not be healthy for children.

Learning partnerships may be the most fruitful of commercial endeavors. For example, setting up a bank branch at a school could help children understand lessons as simple as addition or as complex as financial planning.

Because young people are vulnerable to the manipulations of marketing practices, sponsors and business partners must operate without compromising the educational atmosphere. Children cannot be viewed as consumers rather than students. School officials should consult with parents before proceeding with plans for commercial ventures on their campuses.

Commercialization is so much a part of our culture, but extending it into the school system must be appropriate.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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