Categorized | Opinion

Voices of Reasons

By Brian Bloom

Nine times out of 10 we would support legislative issues that would protect the interests of Tennessee farmers.
As a whole, those who till Tennessee soil are gamblers of the highest repute. Upon their calluses we feed our families, by their sweat we benefit from some of the most affordable food prices in the world.
That’s why, at first glance, we supported the concept of a senate and house bill most recently tagged the “Ag-gag” bill.
Introduced by Sen. Dolores Gresham and Rep. Andy Holt in February, the bill was touted as a mechanism to insure that animal cruelty practices were quickly identified. In reality the bill did the exact opposite.
The ill-conceived legislation would have instead punished whistleblowers if they did not report suspected animal cruelty immediately, suppressing investigations into practices of inhumane treatment of animals.
It would have criminalized reporters who would need necessary time to compile story information and protect large operations who could hide abuse under the ignorance of legislative action.
“This bill would have placed a veil over animal welfare and food safety in the state and suppressed whistleblowers from exposing potential harm,” ASPCA director Suzanne McMillan said.
Last week, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper called the bill “constitutionally suspect” adding the bill could violate a person’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
And studies have found Americans want to know what’s happening in large corporate farming operations. In a 2012 ASPCA poll, 71 percent of Americans supported undercover operation efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse. Ninety-four percent supported measures to ensure food coming from farm animals is safe to eat.
Similar bills introduced in 10 other states, including Arkansas, have failed. We’re please the Governor sided on the rights of the people over big Ag business.
Last week Shelby County Commission Terry Roland brought a measure before commission that would have given the Shelby County Sheriff the responsibility to defend Tennessee against perceived federal government gun control efforts.
Roland, who announced to those in attendance that he was “packing heat,” suggested that the federal government’s efforts to impose background checks was tantamount to tyranny and his impassioned plea actually got four other commissioners to support the resolution.
Like many Americans Roland believes any effort to curb gun purchases is a violation of constitutional liberties and like many Americans Roland seems to believe that gun violence is rampant.
Roland is not alone. According to a March survey by PEW Research Center, 84 percent of Americans believe gun crime has either gone up or stayed the same over the past 20 years when the reality is there’s been a significant drop.
Non-fatal violent gun crimes are down 75 percent in the past 20 years and there are 49 percent fewer fun-related homicides in that same time period.
And while Memphis still has a deserved reputation for violent crime, gun-related incidents remain isolated and are typically confined to domestic or acquaintance related.
Commissioner Steve Mulroy, a Memphis Law School professor, noted neither Shelby County nor the state can simply void a federal law it doesn’t like.
Mulroy added that there are no “jackbooted thugs” from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives being dispatched to confiscate weapons.
We often enjoy Commissioner Roland’s emphatic passion for the people he represents. We need to warn him however that we come “packing pens,” and suggest that playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in his play “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy” said it best.
“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Ceasars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!”

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May 2013
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