Empowering the wackos 

Custer didn't really send a message asking for more Indians, historians now know. But, though it seems equally counterintuitive — if not bonkers — the Arkansas legislature's first response to mass murder is always to seek to put more guns in the hands of more shooters.

The blood hadn't dried in the streets of Tucson before Rep. Denny Altes was sponsoring a bill to make it easier for Arkansans to carry guns openly, rather than concealed, as they do now. Concealment requires a couple of seconds longer for the carrier to put his weapons to use, thus allowing some likely targets to slip away. A clearly stated open-carry law would encourage more people to pack, Altes said, and "the outlaws, the crazies, the wackos, they're going to have to be careful." There's a classic headline for you: "Altes warns wackos."

We rather doubt that the wackos — at least the ones who aren't sponsoring legislation — would be frightened by Altes' bill, but the rest of us, the non-wacko faction, certainly should be. The more guns there are out there, the more likely it is those guns will be used, and the greater the chance that innocent victims will die. The wackos always shoot first, if they can get hold of a gun easily.

Knowing our place

n Hitler called England "a nation of shopkeepers," we were reminded the other day when we read a thoughtful essay describing modern America as "a nation of footmen."

The author was writing about our steely resolve to serve our betters. Is the Social Security system nearing financial embarrassment? A government commission recommends reducing benefits to the elderly and the poor rather than raising taxes slightly on the very wealthy. Cheers ring out. Let we the people bear the pain, not them the upper crust. A new health-care law annoys a few at the top? Repeal it, by all means.

Here in Arkansas, a bill (HB 1002) before the legislature would reduce the capital gains tax, of all things. Arkansas already gives a generous income-tax exemption for capital gains, which are profits from the sale of assets such as stocks and bonds, investments, art and vacation homes.

HB 1002 would deprive public education, transportation and health systems of some $70 million a year in order to give the top 1 percent of Arkansas taxpayers a $4,200 a year tax break. Middle-class Arkansans would get a tax break of $1. And we'd probably try to give that back.


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