— Congress should pass sweeping gun legislation
(The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.)
All of the aspects of President Obama’s $500 million gun legislation plan could be effective in decreasing the incidence of mass shootings in the United States.
It would seem difficult for any rational person, given the pain of tragedies such as the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last month, to argue against such measures.
Yet, argue many people will. Some will say that it won’t do any good, that a person bent on killing others will find a way. Perhaps, but does the way have to be so easy? And, even if the effectiveness of the strategies laid out in Obama’s plan isn’t guaranteed, aren’t we at least compelled to try — in honor of the innocents who have died and in defense of those who could become targets?
This isn’t about striking down the Second Amendment, which protects the right of Americans to bear arms. We’re not talking here about the shotgun your neighbor uses to shoot skeet or hunt rabbits or about the pistol you keep in your closet to protect your home. We’re talking here about guns that are designed to kill dozens of people within a few minutes. And we’re talking about protecting our children from the depraved minds that would turn such weapons upon them.
Obama’s plan has an uphill battle in Congress. Some senators and representatives are beholden to special interests. Some will hide behind the Second Amendment. Others simply don’t care as much as they should.
If this Congress doesn’t pass Obama’s plan — or another plan with as much teeth — it will have failed all of us again and sustained the current environment, an environment in which any deranged individual can easily obtain weapons and ammunition to kill a classroom full of innocents.
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U.S. must not walk away from Afghanistan
(The Free Press – Mankato, Minn.)
Word from The White House is that the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are in the process of working out details to some important agreements for that country's security. Starting in the spring (as opposed to mid-year as previously planned), Afghanistan will take the lead role in its defense and the U.S. mission will consist of training, advising and assisting.
"It will be a historic moment," President Barack Obama declared when he announced the new plan.
But the future of that country is far from secure. There is much to be concerned about, in fact.
Start with troop levels. The U.S. now has 66,000 troops there. After the combat mission ends in 2014, Obama will consider military options that give him anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000 soldiers to remain there. Or maybe all our troops will be brought home.
This "zero option" may be intended as a negotiating tactic with Karzai, who has so far been reluctant to grant legal immunity from prosecution under Afghan law for U.S. troops that remain behind. But it's worrisome to even consider such an idea publicly.
It is true that American support for the U.S. Afghan presence is slipping, but that should not be the basis for reducing our resolve. Our stated objective remains to make Afghanistan safe from the Taliban, and yet we do not yet know whether Afghanistan can succeed in that effort without our help.
Certainly, Afghan fighters will need to be much improved from what we've seen from them. Corruption continues to be a problem.
Our Afghan enemies welcome any hint that our commitment might lessen. It inspires them as much as it makes our Afghan partners nervous.
Clearly, the U.S. has tied up a great deal of capital in Afghanistan, in lives and in funds. We must ensure that our long-term interests in that the country remain stable and able to blunt a Taliban resurgence are met.