By Mick Harper

My first brush with the Corrales Comment came in the winter of 1981-82. I’d moved here in the summer of ’81, was loving my newly adopted home village, especially all the eccentrics and other characters. One Saturday morning as I approached the front door of the Corrales post office… “Sir, want to buy a Corrales Comment?” I thought, “hmmm, a 13-year-old in a trench coat…”

Then I reflected on my days as a 10 year old newspaper boy, thought “Why not?” Later on I met Jeff hustling around refilling Corrales Comment vending machines, got to know him better, became friends, traveling companions and Legends in our Own Minds in the Backyard Volleyball circuit.

Arthur Miller said, “ A good newspaper is the nation talking to itself.”

Philip Graham said, “ the newspaper is the first rough draft of history.”

I say every community needs someone to guide that conversation to remind us the communal decisions we make will be our history. The role of any journalist is to ask questions. We all know about the who, what, where, when, how, and why of newspaper reporting.

A great newspaperman keeps asking more questions and more questions. Jeff Radford asks Corrales the right questions, then made us all re-examine our first, easy answers about the issues of the day, then finally arrive at a better version of Corrales. His questions allowed the charlatans and merely self-interested to reveal themselves.

And his questions got some of us who didn’t even know we had ideas to discover them and speak up and then get caught up in being involved even if we had always preferred the quiet anonymity of the back of the room.

Later on when I got to know Jeff better I discovered Jeff persisted in the worst habits many of us picked up in college… no, no, no, not that one, whatever you’re thinking. It’s the All Nighter. Did you ever pull an All Nighter before the big exam or to finish a term paper? How many of you know that before every issue of the Corrales Comment Jeff Radford pulls a nearly all nighter to finish writing it? I can’t imagine 40 years of writing all night 24  times a year; that’s dedication, not procrastination. That’s a story about how much Jeff cares about his community.

So, thanks, Jeff, for your years of dedication to the community, for years of genuine friendship and “Happy Trails” to you and congratulations on your retirement. Happy Trails to you.

By Mike Baron

How many firearm deaths do we wish to prevent?

Here are 10 gun safety recommendations to reduce firearm deaths that do not compromise Second Amendment rights:

  1. Universal background checks. States with universal background checks for all gun sales had 15 percent lower homicide rates than states without such laws. And states with laws prohibiting firearm possession by people convicted of violent crimes showed an 18 percent reduction in homicide rates. If universal background checks provide an overall 20 percent reduction in firearm deaths, that would translate to 8,000-10,000 saved lives annually.
  2. Prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns. Note: mental illness is a predictor of suicide but not of violence toward others. There are about 25,000 annual firearm suicides.
  3. Ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.
  4. Ban on assault-style weapons, which might save 500 lives annually.
  5. Create a federal database to track gun sales.
  6. Bar gun purchases by people on the federal no-fly or watch lists.
  7. Nationalize and enforce red flag laws, now in at least 17 states (N.M. was No.17 in 2020), permitting police or family members to petition the courts to order a temporary removal of guns from a household member who may be a danger to others or themselves. After Indiana and Connecticut implemented red flag laws in their states, there was a combined 10 percent reduction in just firearm suicides. Nationally, that would translate to at least 2,500 prevented suicides.
  8. Raise minimum age for gun purchase from 18 to 21, which may save 400-500 lives annually.
  9. Support safe gun storage legislation, like proposed N.M. State HB9. If applied nationally, about 500 saved lives annually.
  10. Voluntary buy-guns-back program. Australia’s buy-back program (supplemented with other reforms) were associated with a nearly 70 percent decrease in gun deaths, between 1996 and 2016, from 2.9 to 0.9 gun deaths per 100,000. Our 400 million guns are owned by about 80 million Americans, or about 5 guns per owner. Thought experiment: What If each owner kept at least one gun and, say, sold the other four back at $1,000 per gun? It would cost the government $320 billion. Compare that to the $229 billion gun violence costs to our country every year.

Let’s bring leaders from at least Japan and the United States together to see what we may learn. Per capita, our annual gun deaths (40,000+) are about 500x higher than theirs (76 <- not a typo). The number of guns we own is also about 500x greater per capita (400,000,000 vs. 310,000).

The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The “security” of our “free state" is clearly not secure. If our “militia” is to be defined as all Americans, we are obviously not “well regulated.” Greater regulation is needed.

The profusion of guns in America (compared to any other country, not just Japan) clearly correlates with the number of deaths we endure. If we do not wish to accept that level of tragedy, as parents in Uvalde understandably yelled out to President Biden, “DO something!” Do we have the will?

We can always amend legislation. We cannot bring back a lost life, nor 40,000.

By Bob Perls

This is How We Create Common Ground

Why can’t we move forward with steps to curb gun violence? Hint: It has nothing to do with the  National Rifle Association (NRA). The answer is because to curb gun violence politicians would have to be representing the 80 percent of Americans who are currently unrepresented in our political system.

How does a Democracy end up rarely representing most of its citizens? Three reasons:

  • Broken primaries
  • Money
  • Gerrymandered districts

Problem: Primaries are broken because first round public elections exclude independent voters, but most importantly are controlled by the political parties that should be participants, not rule setters.  We have very low turnout primaries where candidates focus on the party base and over the years both parties have tracked to their political extremes leaving little interest in compromise or representing all voters-only the party base.

Solution: Look to Alaska and adopt a blanket primary where all candidates run together and the top four voter getters advance to the general election where voters then rank the candidates first through fourth using a simple ballot. Candidates have to listen to all voters from the beginning of the election cycle and be responsive to the whole political spectrum.

Problem: Money drives campaigns and most of it comes from special interest groups on the left and the right that have a vested interest in keeping the status quo highly polarized. Surprised that candidates from the left and right this election cycle are fundraising off of the mass shootings? Well, it is effective whether the party opposes all gun regulation or embraces banning certain or all weapons. No one gets elected by articulating a common ground solution under our current system.

Solution: Public financing of campaigns and reversal of the U.S Supreme Court Citizens United decision so that once and for all we establish that corporations are not people and that freedom of expression is not tied to how much money you have.

Problem: Gerrymandered districts exist in most states and certainly in New Mexico as evidenced by the Democratically controlled legislature and many Republican controlled county commissions like Sandoval County. Politicians carving up the voters so that they can stay in power is a practice as old as the hills. Unfortunately, it also creates districts where candidates only have to talk to "their own kind" and reach out to a small sliver of voters. What if every district was competitive between parties and candidates?

Solution: Create an independent redistricting commission so that politicians can't decide who votes for them. The goal should be competitive elections and districts that keep communities intact.

In sum, our inability to solve wicked complex policy issues are rooted in our rigged election, campaign, districting and finance laws.

Want to come up with solutions on abortion, gun laws, taxes, education and more that 80 percent of New Mexicans can agree with? Change how we run primary elections, district elected officials, finance campaigns and register voters. There is a straight line from our failure in multiple policy arenas to the way we structure our elections.

Bob Perls is a former State Representative and former U.S. diplomat, writing here as a private citizen not representing any organization.

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