As a state, Alabama isn’t much of a problem solver. That’s why we rank near the bottom in practically every quality of life survey of the nation. It’s why we’re lousy at fixing education and prisons and mental health and child welfare. Somebody (usually the feds) has to tell us how to fix those problems. We don’t have a real clue.
Instead of looking at how states with problems like ours solve their messes, we try to reinvent the wheel at every turn. Our wheels are often more square than round. They just don’t do the job.
We even stumble when the answer to a problem is obvious. Rural hospitals are in trouble. Access to health care in many parts of the state is sketchy. Those doctors who do sacrifice to work in rural settings are often overwhelmed. Hundreds of thousands of working poor Alabamians don’t have health insurance.
We have plenty of doctors in Birmingham, but you don’t have to drive very far to get beyond the “doctor belt” and into the black belt. And once there, well, good luck.
Except there’s a simple answer to these problems in health care: Expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. We’ll pay a fraction of what the federal government is going to give us.
Yet, when elected officials in Montgomery even dare to talk about Medicaid expansion, they complain about how much it’s going to cost taxpayers. Besides, the ACA is OBAMACARE!!!
We throw money at all sorts of ridiculous causes — defending can’t-win laws that usually discriminate against somebody or some group but were passed by lawmakers looking for yet another hot-button issue to bamboozle their constituents.
Expanding Medicaid, though, will lead to all sorts of benefits, not the least of which is access to health care for hundreds of thousands of uninsured citizens of the state.
In this scary day of mass shootings and daily gun violence, one cause we don’t mind pandering to is guns. Not preventing gun violence or removing the easy access to weapons people have in Alabama. But, instead, state-sanctioned encouragement for putting more guns out there.
Once again, lawmakers are proposing a bill that will allow Alabamians to conceal carry a weapon without a permit. That should comfort the many law enforcement officers who have to enforce traffic laws or intervene in a domestic fight.
Sure, the bad guys can always get guns. They’re not going to follow the law. How about the good guys who become bad guys? It happens all the time. Somebody snaps, and then: bang! Or, rather, bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Yeah, the person who targets a school full of children to shoot up is twisted, but something triggered that twistedess, and it could have come well after he qualified to conceal carry a Glock without a permit.
Here’s the ultimate hypocrisy in these types of laws. Lawmakers make sure they’re protected by not only prohibiting firearms in their precious State House where they pass these dangerous bills, but in all sorts of places where they deem a concealed gun might be an issue: Police stations, courthouses, hospitals.
Universities and schools are not off limits in the bill. Those schools’ athletic events are, so go figure. I’ve said it before: I do not want my students at UAB to carry a concealed weapon, especially on those days I return just-graded papers.
For the most part, lawmakers are making Alabama the Wild Wild South. Instead of finding solutions to the awful national crisis of gun violence, Alabama lawmakers want to make the problem worse by allowing just about anybody to buy or get a gun, hide it under their coat, and go their merry way.
Until the day they’re not so merry.
Alabama lawmakers believe in gun control, despite what they holler. They prove it with this bill that lists multiple places where a qualified person can’t carry a weapon. They’re just drawing lines.
They draw their lines at hospitals and courtrooms. I draw mine at me.
No, Alabama doesn’t seem to learn from its mistakes. Instead, Alabama searches for other opportunities to make costly mistakes: Banning abortion outright, forcing schools and school kids to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or pray to the Christian god; passing a law to scare immigrants so they’ll leave the state; putting Ten Commandments and religious monuments on government property; prohibiting local governments (cities and counties) from doing right by their residents after the Legislature has already done them wrong.
Allowing practically anybody to have a gun on their person, hidden from me and you and the cops.
That certainly doesn’t make me feel more safe. Nor my law enforcement friends, either.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].