School shooting is America's problem
(The Free Press -- Mankato, Minn.)
School shootings in America should be difficult and rare, not easy and frequent.
But when most of us can name four or five of them off the top of our heads, we should realize they have become too easy and frequent.
Jonesboro. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Now Newtown, Conn. Then add other public places. Post offices, movie theaters, businesses, warehouses, churches, NFL football fields. It's pretty sad when 28 dead in a school shooting doesn't break the record. The Virginia Tech shooter claimed 32 lives.
Newtow was considered by one parent the "safest place in America."
President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Friday, his voice breaking and tears filling his eyes, imploring us to take "meaningful action" to prevent such violence.
"As a country, we have been through this too many times," Obama said. "Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children."
Obama said "regardless of politics" we have to take meaningful action to prevent these tragedies.
The politics reference was alluding to an ugly truth about our gun violence debate in America. We seem afraid to have one at high levels of power from state houses to the White House. If you watched the presidential race, you would hardly know America has been enduring these tragedies more frequently in the last few years. Congress is loathe to take on the debate even when one of its own becomes a victim.
Like any legitimate public affairs issue, we should debate the causes, the effects and what makes mass shootings so easy and frequent. From mental illness prevention to semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, all issues need to be on the table.
But we should also examine our own consciences. Can we continue to live with these tragedies and be afraid of a gun lobby we know is very powerful? Or is it time we had the courage, as Obama urges, to do something "meaningful."
We're running out of safe places in America.
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Retail sales hold strong
(The Norman, Okla., Transcript)
U.S. consumers ignored the superstorm Sandy’s aftermath and a potential “fiscal cliff” and proceeded to shop for the holidays last month.
Economists said a steady job market and lower gas prices boosted retail sales 0.3 percent in November from October. That compares to a decline from September to October.
While gasoline prices were dropping, layoffs were fewer and applications for jobless benefits declined. It also shows consumers have yet to panic over the “fiscal cliff” combination of tax increases and spending cuts.
Consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of the U.S. economy and retailers count on the fourth quarter to make up for year-round sluggish sales numbers.