Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on upsurge in pistol permits:
Look at 10 adults around you. Chances are, one of them is licensed to carry a hidden pistol, making him or her ready to kill.
West Virginia has about 1.2 million adults — and they hold 126,515 pistol permits, according to research by the state Press Association. Kanawha County leads the ready-to-kill array with 11,775 permits. Cabell County (Huntington) is next with 6,072, followed by Wood (Parkersburg) with 5,512.
West Virginia gun-carrying apparently quadrupled recently. In 2009, only 11,160 of the five-year permits were issued, but the number jumped to 44,981 last year. If that yearly rate continues during the next four years, the cumulative total will pass 200,000. (To learn the number of active permits, yearly totals for five years must be counted.)
Offhand, we assume that law-abiding West Virginians who go to the bother of passing criminal background checks, passing mental screening, taking safety classes and paying $100 fees to obtain permits aren't much danger to fellow citizens. The worst menace, we figure, comes from criminals, psychotics, wife-bashers and others who skulk around with unlicensed secret guns.
However, there's a different worry: Homes that contain guns are much more likely to produce murders, suicides and accidental killing of children.
A new study by Everytown for Gun Safety found that 62 U.S. children under age 14 are killed by guns in their homes or family cars each year, and 660 are hospitalized with wounds. The study said children in gun-saturated America are 16 times more likely to be shot to death than in high-income foreign nations. What a curse on America. What a horrible tragedy for the U.S. families involved.
Dr. James Binder of the Cabin Creek clinic wrote an Aug. 3 commentary saying people who buy guns for "protection" actually put themselves into danger. "Women who live in a home with a gun are three times as likely to be murdered," he wrote. "Home possession of a gun significantly increases the risk of suicide, homicide and accidental deaths. In fact, children are twice as likely to die from a firearm as cancer."
Therefore, West Virginia's big upsurge in pistol permits has an ugly shadow: The guns endanger the "protected" families. And remember, many homes contain guns, even though the owners don't get permits to carry them in public.
But look on the bright side: Nine-tenths of West Virginia adults don't have pistol permits. If that means their homes are safer, it's a blessing.
Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on tobacco use:
West Virginia has one of the nation's worst smoking problems.
But state government has been reluctant to take aggressive steps to reduce tobacco use, and we are paying a high price in both poor health and public health costs.
That needs to change.
The facts and figures were thoroughly outlined this summer in an article in the West Virginia Medical Journal. The state has the nation's second highest percentage of current smokers, and while the smoking rates in other states have declined, the Mountain State keeps right on puffing away.
When you look at the number of people who smoke every day, the difference is dramatic.
Between 1995 and 2010, the national rate of daily smokers declined from 20 percent to 12.3 percent. Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee all declined to under 20 percent during that same period, and Virginia and Pennsylvania to under 15 percent, the study showed.
Sadly, West Virginia never dropped below 20 percent, and the state's rate actually increased between 2005-2010 to 23 percent.
A more comprehensive approach to tobacco policies would help, one of the authors of the study told the Charleston Gazette last week.
"The recommendations from (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's) Best Practices are out there," Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said. "Do we pick and choose from those or look at it more comprehensively and try to apply those in a comprehensive state tobacco control program?"
So what does the legislature need to do?
Implement a statewide indoor air law. Currently, the rules vary from county to county, and only 27 of the state's 55 counties ban smoking inside all public facilities.
Raise the tobacco tax. At 55 cents per pack, West Virginia has one of the lowest tobacco taxation rates in the country.
Ramp up marketing and smoking-cessation assistance. The CDC recommends that West Virginia should be spending more than $27 million a year on tobacco prevention and control efforts. The state now spends a little more than $7 million.
Continuing on the same path makes no sense. Not only does the state have a high rate of deaths attributed to smoking, but the lost productivity and other related health-care costs run into the billions each year.
It is time to get serious about reducing tobacco use in West Virginia.