Bucks County Herald

Charles Meredith:

Comments on a massacre

Dear Friends,

Good morning. Will Congress and the state legislatures address gun control in the aftermath of America’s worst massacre in recent history? No, my book club unhappily answered. The 10 of us meet quarterly.

Each time we gather, I run an opinion poll. So last week, one of my questions addressed the Las Vegas massacre. Would Congress and the 50 state legislatures pass legislation restricting guns. All of us agreed that there was no reason why anyone should be able to legally purchase a military assault weapon. Alas, we also agreed that the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, would spend millions to defeat any politician who votes for gun control.

Many newspapers use the Bloomberg View for editorial content. Here’s a portion of one of its editorials last week. “If the gun debate in the U.S. appears stalled, it is because the argument in the absence of reason and facts is circular,” it reasoned. “Thus a White House spokeswoman for President Trump, who previously called himself the NRA’s true best friend said that it’s inappropriate to discuss remedies to gun violence so soon after a mass incidence of gun violence.” What nonsense!

“This cycle of preventable violence and pointless debate will not end until more political leaders, and responsible gun owners, acknowledge the obvious: that sensible restrictions on gun possession and use are both constitutional and necessary,” the editorial concluded.

While I’m certain that Second Amendment fans will pounce on my criticism of the NRA, massacres won’t stop until voters demand action.

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It appears that another Pennsylvania congressman is about to bite the dust. Rep. Tim Murphy announced last week that he would not run for a ninth term, amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which the antiabortion lawmaker urged his mistress to get an abortion when he thought she was pregnant. We’ve lost another congressional hypocrite. Huzzah!

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Gerrymandering has finally hit the national stage. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments which would specify when gerrymandering has proven to be unconstitutional. In my opinion, politicians will never fix gerrymandering, because they like it. Only the court can change the practice.

As Justice Samuel Alito said, “Gerrymandering is distasteful but if we are going to impose a standard on the courts, it has to be something that's manageable.” Alito should have added “measurable.”

Former Congressman Jim Greenwood acknowledged the unpopularity of Congress at a recent meeting concerning gerrymandering in Doylestown. But he wondered how that turns into action when 98 percent of the members of the House of Representatives and 93 percent of the U.S. Senate are reelected in their reelection cycles.

“There are very few contested seats” Greenwood said. “Incumbents know they will win,” he added. In a polarized Congress, compromise is a dirty word.

“The path to end gerrymandering requires an amendment to the State Constitution,” Ardith Talbot of Solebury Township said. She is the legislative coordinator for Fair Districts Pa. Talbot is leading the effort to require an amendment to the state’s constitution. Bills to end gerrymandering are stalled in both houses and their legislative committees. State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney serves on the committee in the senate.

McIlhinney needs to feel the pressure from his constituents because it takes three years to change the state constitution.

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Will a recent case before the state Supreme Court force school districts to abandon their reliance on property taxes to fund public schools? Will the decision allowing the case to go to trial assure that students have access to a fair education system regardless of their ZIP code?

By the way, Pennsylvania is ranked 46th in the nation in the state share of K-12 funding. It’s so frustrating to see public school academic results vary by ZIP code. If your children live in affluent New Hope-Solebury, chances are good that the kids will receive a quality education … but not so in Bristol Borough.

Our state legislators have the power to change the system. They could abandon school funding via real estate taxes and substitute an income tax or sales tax instead. Why won’t they? You might start by asking your state representative and state senator to answer the question.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

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