OPINION: Tennessee Teachers Could Be Next To Strike

This post from organizer/journalist Chris Brooks was first seen on the TN Ed Report. Follow @TheAndySpears for his take on politics and policy and subscribe to the TN ED REPORT HERE.  

Chris Brooks is a former organizer with the Tennessee Education Association and currently works as an organizer and staff writer for Labor Notes.

Tennessee teachers have taken a pummeling over the years.

They’re grossly underpaid and their professional autonomy has been stripped away. Their students are over-tested and their schools underfunded.

But what has been the collective response?

To lie low.

Keep their heads down.

This is especially true of the leadership in their union, the Tennessee Education Association. They’ve pursued a strategy of “it’s better to be at the table than on the menu.”

This strategy emphasizes access over confrontation. They hope that small incremental change will be possible through a combination of lobbying and writing checks to political campaigns. And since the union isn’t being adversarial, isn’t pushing too hard or too fast, they hope they won’t be a target for political retribution.

Those hopes have been misplaced.

Across the state, conditions in schools have only gotten worse. Tennessee consistently ranks near the bottom of the country in per-pupil spending. Experienced and qualified teachers are leaving the profession in droves.

Now, newly elected Governor Bill Lee is taking direct aim at public education. He just announced a state budget that doubles funding for charter schools and is pushing lawmakers to approve $25 million for vouchers. Governor Lee’s disastrous privatization agenda will further drain resources from schools that are already struggling to get by.

The lesson here is that we can’t incrementally lobby our way out of the hole we are in.

Lying low doesn’t work, but there is another way.

All across the country, teachers are supercharging the routine of lobbying and elections with a far more powerful tool: they are going out on strike.

Teachers in West Virginia, Arizona, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Kentucky have used collective action to transform the political landscape. They’ve decimated charter and voucher legislation, stopped further spending cuts, and pushed policies that actually benefit student outcomes: lower class sizes, more nurses and counselors, an end to toxic testing, and paying teachers adequately so school systems can retain them for more than a few years.

There is clear tangible evidence that strikes work. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “protests by teachers and others last year helped lead to substantial increases in school funding in Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.”

It didn’t matter that striking is illegal in many of these states or that the state government is dominated by anti-union Republicans.

When teachers found the courage to strike they found out that the community—and often even their boss—had their back

With so many school districts struggling to make ends meet, striking teachers found that their demands for increased state funding had the support of their local administrators. Because superintendents closed their schools during the nine-day West Virginia strike, teachers didn’t lose pay and the strike rolled on.

Parents know that issues like class size and funding matter. It’s common sense. Would you rather your child be in a classroom with twenty other students or forty? Do you want your child to be taught by a capable, qualified professional or to be endlessly drilled in preparation for a high-stakes test?

Unsurprisingly, teachers everywhere have received an outpouring of support from parents and community members when they hit the picket lines.

Teachers living with anemic unions and deteriorating conditions in their schools have created their own Facebook groups to communicate with each other and coordinate actions across school sites. Examples include West Virginia Public Employees United, KY 120 United, and Arizona Educators United.

Now there is TN Teachers United.

“This group is for any public school educator who is tired of their students’ needs being put last and is tired of their voices being ignored,” said Lauren Sorensen, a second grade teacher at Halls Elementary School in Knox County and a longtime leader in her local union. “If you are ready to organize and act, then join us.”

The group was formed following a video call organized by Labor Notes between Tennessee teacher activists and two of the rank-and-file organizers of the statewide walkouts in Arizona and West Virginia (see video below).

Tennessee teachers face the same issues and challenges as teachers in West Virginia and Arizona—and they are just as resourceful.

They just have to ask themselves: are they going to keep lying low or are they going to start fighting back?

Chris Brooks is a former organizer with the Tennessee Education Association and currently works as an organizer and staff writer for Labor Notes.

VIDEO: “HEARTBEAT BILL” FLOOR DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS (Plus Gloria Johnson)

Watch TN’s mostly male House of Representatives pass the “Heartbeat Bill”, which would force women to carry their rapist’s child to term, after Speaker Glen Casada ignored State Representative Gloria Johnson‘s amendment to offer those women protections.

READ MORE HERE.

#HeartbeatBill #HB0077

TN GOP Kills Bill To Stop Shaming Hungry Students

Republicans voted 4-2 to defeat The Tennessee Hunger-Free Students Act—a bill with three measures to ensure students can eat school lunches and not be punished when parents fail to pay meal fees or a meal debt.

The bill sponsor Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said the bill would stop school employees from throwing away a served meal if the student could not pay, and would also prohibit schools from punishing or shaming students who accumulated a meal debt.

Clemmons:

“We certainly do not want to have a child stigmatized or punished in any way for simply incurring a lunch debt at no fault of their own. We have had incidents in recent years in Tennessee where students have been treated adversely or stigmatized in some manner. Whether it’s being made to eat in the principal’s office and eat a peanut butter sandwich by themselves simply because they had a lunch debt, or being prevented from going on field trips because of a lunch debt, we want to prevent these types of things… this is no fault of the child.”

House Bill 0827 would also have required schools to contact a guardian after a student accumulates a debt of five meals or more.

The K-12 Education Subcommittee heard the bill March 6. You can watch the full presentation here.

Here’s a clip of the vote:

Republicans Seemed Supportive, But Then…
Both Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, District 40 (last seen defending her support for the bust of the KKK Grand Wizard bust in the capitol by saying “some of my best friends are black”) and Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, District 83, spoke seemingly in support of children eating school lunches despite a meal debt… but would eventually go on to vote it down.

Rep. White said:

“Any adult who would shame a child over an issue like this—shame on them.”

But then he used his remaining time to fixate on the unspecified cost of school lunches.

The fiscal note included on the original version bill, which White read aloud, said local school districts would lose an unknown amount of revenue on meal debts left unrecovered, but “Otherwise, the fiscal impact of the legislation is considered not significant.”

Rep. Iris Rudder spoke up as she voted, saying she was inclined to vote yes but decided at the last minute that she didn’t understand the bill.

Reps. Weaver, White, and Rudder ultimately voted against the bill—possibly denying lunch to some students who incurred a meal debt.

Shame indeed.

It should be noted that the very same day this bill was voted down for reasons of fiscal responsibility the Tennessean broke a story that under Speaker Glen Casada taxpayers have paid $7 Million more to run the TN House, and that his Chief of Staff is being paid $200,000 per year – a $130,000 raise from last year.

It should also be noted that today Rep. Weaver today gave a passionate speech in favor of the heartbeat bill HB 0077 and adamantly insisted we do everything in our power to protect the sanctity of life – but apparently that doesn’t extend to children of school age.

Rep. Kirk Haston, a coach and teacher out of Lobelville, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, who is running for mayor of Nashville had this to say to The Holler about the failure of his bill:

“With this legislation, we intended to protect children from stigmatization and bullying as a result of incurring a lunch debt. As we all know, incurring a lunch debt at school is no fault of a child and is often not the fault of a parent who is doing the best they can to provide for their child. Under no scenario should a child should be treated differently or adversely or discriminated against in any way if they’ve incurred a meal debt in our state. This legislation would have protected our children. I am disappointed that a few Republicans killed what should have been a non-partisan piece of legislation to protect innocent children.”

How they voted: K-12 Education Subcommittee, March 6;

Representatives voting Aye:
Rep. Kirk Haston, R-Lobelville, District 72
Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, District 41

Representatives voting No against the bill:
Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, District 33
Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, District 39
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, District 40
Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, District 83

SILENCED: Speaker Casada Ignores Female Rep’s Rape & Incest Exceptions Amendment

Today Tennessee Republicans passed the “Heartbeat Bill”, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected – generally around 6 weeks into a pregnancy – by a 67-21 vote, with 7 abstentions.

The bill makes no exceptions for rape or incest, meaning even a teenager impregnated after being raped by her basketball coach would have to carry the baby to term.

Rep. Micah Van Huss, who carried the bill, famously said he “could not find the evil” in that scenario.

The passage of the bill was contentious. Rep. London Lamar stood up and objected, saying as the only woman of child-bearing age she should have more say over what happens to her body than the mostly male TN House.

From Rep. Lamar London:

Rep. Gloria Johnson also stood to talk, and was the only female Rep with an amendment scheduled to be heard, but was ignored, as was her amendment for the bill which would have allowed for exceptions in the cases of rape and incest.

Johnson followed all the protocol to have her amendment heard, and it was on the schedule, but Speaker Casada – who has admitted that he has taken the lead on this legislation in the hopes that it will end up in front of the Supreme Court – adjourned, then came back and ignored Johnson’s amendment.

These bills are unconstitutional, as even the committee lawyer admitted.

Women were outside in the hallway protesting the bill loudly.

 

Here are some other reactions:

State Senator Jeff Yarbro:


State Rep. John Ray Clemmons:

If you believe Speaker Casada silencing Rep. Johnson was wrong, and that women should have a say in what happens to their bodies, holler at him HERE.

REACTIONS: BIPARTISAN BLOWBACK TO CASADA’S BLOATED BUDGET

Yesterday the Tennessean put out a scathing report of the skyrocketing cost of running the Tennessee State House under Speaker Glen Casada, who fancies himself a “fiscal conservative” but clearly does not walk the walk.

From the Tennessean:

“Since House Speaker Glen Casada became the chamber’s leader, the size and cost of running the Tennessee General Assembly is increasing, forcing the lower chamber’s leader to ask the governor for an additional $7 million.”

The report from Joel Ebert points to staff fees like the $130,000 raise (!) he gave his Chief of Staff Cade Cothren, an outrageous number by any stretch of the imagination.

Cothren now makes just shy of $200,000 to run the Speaker’s office. As a reminder, the legislature is in session for approximately one-third of the year each year.

From Ebert’s report:

“Cothren earns $199,800 a year. Last year, when Casada was the House majority leader, Cothren made $68,400 as an executive assistant and policy researcher… 31-year-old Cothren is the third-highest paid legislative employee, behind Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey and Rick Nicholson, McNally’s chief of staff… Cothren has worked for state government since 2013. Nicholson and Humphrey first started working for the state in 1995 and 1998, respectively… Cothren makes more money than Lee’s chief of staff and all but three commissioners in the governor’s 23-member Cabinet… And his salary is significantly higher than the last three House chiefs of staff.”

(Cothren was last seen lying to the face of a protester of the bust of the first KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest about misspelled emails.)

Regarding the office of the Speaker, the article goes on:

“It costs more than $5.1 million to pay for the salaries of employees in those offices, the analysis found. At this time last year, salaries for those same House offices cost taxpayers about $3.8 million.

If you have an issue with this, holler at Casada HERE.

In the meantime, here are some reactions from Tennesseans from both parties across the state… Despite Majority Leader William Lamberth playing the good soldier and calling the increased size and cost of operations in the House “extremely conservative” (apparently forgetting what words mean) the reaction to the article on both sides of the aisle has been one of shock and disgust:

Rep. Mike Stewart, the House Democratic caucus chairman, had this to say:

“It sounds like fiscal conservatism means about as much with Tennessee Republicans as it does with the Republicans up in Washington.”

Madison County Commissioner, District 9 – Republican Jay Bush:


Democratic State Senator Jeff Yarbro:


Democratic State Rep. Gloria Johnson (who says she still hasn’t received a $3 key to her office!):


Longtime political operative Holly Mccall (who contributes to the Holler):

Williamson County Tweeter @StormResist:


Former State House Candidate Allan Creasy:


From John Harris, who manages Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc.:

TN Republicans Reject Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions, Rural Hospitals, Seniors in Nursing Homes

House Republicans have rejected four measures that would increase health care security for families enrolled in the state Medicaid program known as TennCare.

The measures, introduced by Democratic members of the House Insurance Committee, would have amended HB1280, a bill that directs the governor to apply for a Medicaid block grant from the federal government.

It would be the first such waiver of its kind in U.S. history. (Click here to learn how a Medicaid block grant could cost Tennessee $1 billion in federal funding by 2027.)

GOP Defeats Four Amendments

Protect coverage for pre-existing conditions: House Amendment 5080, presented by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, District 60, would ensure that Tennesseans with pre-existing conditions would still receive coverage if the block grant was approved.

Republicans voted it down.

Protect rural hospitals: House Amendment 5004a, presented by Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, District 96, would have ensured rural hospitals received due consideration in negotiations with federal Medicaid officials.

Republicans voted it down.

Expand TennCare coverage to working poor: House Amendment 5165, presented by Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, District 88, would expand negotiations to include TennCare health insurance for working families in Tennessee, whose incomes are below 138 percent of poverty line. Generally speaking, these are the Tennesseans who would gain health coverage through Medicaid expansion—a measure supported by 66 percent of Tennesseans.

Republicans voted it down.

Protect nursing home coverage for elderly Tennesseans: House Amendment 5212, presented by Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, District 67, said his measure would protect Medicaid coverage for elderly Tennesseans who live in nursing homes. More than six out of 10 nursing home residents in Tennessee are Medicaid recipients. The legislation “doesn’t guarantee we’re protecting our elderly,” Hodges said.

Republicans voted it down.

In questioning the bill sponsor, Rep. Jernigan said one of the chief concerns of a Medicaid block grant system is funding unexpected coverage increases if circumstances change, for instance, a surge in eligibility surge during an economic downturn. “Would we have to use state dollars at that point to make it up?” Jernigan said.

The bill sponsor Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, District 3, said, “the concern you’re bringing is a classic concern and a valid concern.” But rather than building guidelines for Tennessee’s negotiators, Hill said, it should be addressed during negotiations.

As of January 2019, there were nearly 32,000 TennCare enrollees in Sullivan County, where Rep. Hill lives. Holler at him HERE.

As a reminder, Block Grants would actually mean cuts to TennCare, don’t do anything about covering uninsured Tennesseans or saving rural hospitals, and are currently illegal and opposed by Children’s hospitals.

Here’s more on WHY. Meanwhile we lose $4 Million every day we don’t expand medicaid.

You can watch the full House Insurance Committee meeting here.

How they voted:
House Insurance Committee, March 5; Voice Vote, Ayes prevail:
Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, District 31
Rep. Mark Hall, R-Cleveland, District 24
Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, District 64
Rep. Ron Gant, R-Rossville, District 94
Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, District 45
Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, District 3
Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, District 7
Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, District 89
Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, District 36*
Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, District 34
Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, District 25*
Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, District 26
Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, District 49
Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, District 48
Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, District 14

Voting No:
Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, District 67
Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, District 60
Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, District 88
Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, District 96

Bill Sponsors:
Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, District 3
Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, District 63
Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, District 7
Rep. Ron Gant, R-Rossville, District 94
Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, District 70
Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, District 14
Rep. Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, District 22
Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, District 75
Rep. Paul Sherrell, R-Sparta, District 43
Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, District 71
Rep. Chris Todd, R-Jackson, District 73
Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, District 64
Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, District 1
Rep. Rush Bricken, R-Tullahoma, District 47
Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, District 29
Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, District 48
Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, District 26
Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, District 69
Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, District 12
Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, District 17
Rep. Jay Reedy, R-Erin, District 74
Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Gray, District 6
Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, District 46
Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, District 2
Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, District 39
Rep. Debra Moody, R-Covington, District 81
Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, District 76
Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, District 33
Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, District 25

VIDEO: REP. BYRD, REVISITED

“We will not let Speaker Glen Casada silence dissent in the People’s House.”

Extended Video shows what happened when the peaceful protestors Speaker Glen Casada had dragged from Rep. Byrd’s committee last week returned to another meeting.

(Also featuring Rep. Gloria Johnson calling for Byrd’s resignation, and the silence of State Representatives Ryan Williams and William Lamberth)

TN ED REPORT: “100% FOR CHARTERS, 2.5% FOR TEACHERS” #StateOfTheState

Andy Spears owns the public policy consulting firm Spears Strategy which provides policy and advocacy consulting to school systems, non-profits, and parent groups. Spears holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration with an emphasis in education policy. Over the past 15 years, he has worked in public policy roles in state and local government in Kentucky and Tennessee. Follow @TheAndySpears for his take on politics and policy and subscribe to the TN ED REPORT HERE.

—–

Tonight, Governor Bill Lee outlined his proposed budget for 2019-2020. Lee’s budget doubles the fund for charter school facilities to $12 million. This amounts to a benefit of $342 per student (there are roughly 35,000 Tennessee students in charter schools).

Meanwhile, he announced a meager improvement to teacher salaries of around 2% – $71 million. This amounts to $71 per student.

So, charter schools — which serve only 3.5% of the state’s students — will see a 100% increase in available facility funding from the state while teachers will see only a 2% increase in pay.

If the two investments were equal and funded at the rate granted to charter schools, there would be a $342 million investment in teacher salaries. That’s roughly a 10% raise. A raise that’s desperately needed as Tennessee leads the nation in percentage of teachers with little to no classroom experience. We also have one of the largest teacher wage gaps in the Southeast.

As one Nashville teacher pointed out, Nashville – and the entire state — have a failed business plan:

I’m starting a business and looking for workers. The work is intense, so the workers should be highly skilled. Experience preferred. Starting salary is 40k with the opportunity to get all the way to 65k after 25 years of staying in the same position. See how dumb that sounds?

Now, those are numbers for Nashville. Some teachers around the state have to teach for 10 years before they even hit $40,000. Still, the point is clear: The value proposition for teachers in our state is not very good. Unfortunately, Governor Lee’s first budget is not doing much to change that. It’s the status quo. A nominal increase that will likely not entirely make it into teacher paychecks.

Tennessee’s numbers when it comes to both investment in schools and educational attainment are disappointing. Continuing along the same path means we’ll keep getting the same results.

The bottom line: Money matters.

 

 

HYPOCRISY ALERT: TN GOP To Pass Sex Abuse Awareness Resolution While Silent On Byrd

Yet another incredible chapter of the Rep. David Byrd saga is unfolding right before our eyes, albeit under the radar.

Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) is carrying a joint resolution to be heard by the Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning that “Urges the state to increase awareness of sexual abuse and the substance abuse and crime that result from sexual abuse.”

It passed a subcommittee by voice vote last week.

This is happening while still not a single Republican member of the legislature has spoken out against Rep. David Byrd, who apologized on tape to 1 of the 3 women who have now accused him of sexually molesting them when they were high school basketball players playing for him at Wayne County High School.

Former Speaker Beth Harwell asked Byrd to step down. Current Speaker Glen Casada not only hasn’t done that, he promoted Byrd to chair of an education subcommittee.

Here’s some video of Sparks presenting the resolution to a subcommittee, where it passed by voice vote:


The hypocrisy levels are off the charts on this one. From the Resolution:

“It is vitally important that victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate treatment and care that involve understanding, recognizing, and responding to the types of trauma to help them become survivors and rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.”

It’s almost as if they’re trolling Byrd’s victims and everyone who stands with them, including the women Speaker Casada had thrown out of Byrd’s subcommittee hearing last week for no reason.

All this comes after Casada blatantly lied about ever meeting with the victims, who he proceeded to run ads against calling them fake news.

This resolution rings hollow given the current situation. If you agree, holler at Sparks, and Speaker Casada.

And feel free to join Enough is Enough at Byrd’s subcommittee hearing Tuesday afternoon at 4pm at the Cordell Hull Building.

VIDEO: Rep. Faison’s “Facts” Flub – On Guns & the Bahamian Death Penalty

This week Rep. Jeremy Faison made an inaccurate statement in his defense of HB 1264, a bill that would would create a new concealed handgun carry permit process that requires no fee and only a 2 hour online training, meaning people would be able to get permits and carry guns nearly everywhere without ever firing one.

Here’s our previous video of highlights from the hearing, in case you missed it.

The bill is being carried by Rep. Andy Holt. It passed the House Judiciary Committee easily, despite the fact that even Speaker Casada’s own polling shows 93 percent of Tennessee voters – including 93 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of gun owners and 89 percent of current permit holders – support the state’s current permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public.

For some context: Tennessee is already the 11th worst state when it comes to gun deaths. 6 of the 10 that are worse have laws that make guns easier to get and carry everywhere. In 2017, Tennessee led the entire nation in shootings involving children with access to unsecured, negligently stored firearms.

Studies have repeatedly shown states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths, but some refuse to accept that and cite exceptions to the rule – like Chicago, or in Faison’s case the Bahamas – to “prove” that the correlation is not causation.

At the hearing Rep. Jeremy Faison – who thankfully seems to be recovering well after his recent accident – decided to go with the Bahamas as his example, saying:

“The places where the highest amount of crimes where a gun was used in America… those were in places that we have some of the most strict, draconian, anti-constitutional laws. So somehow this notion that if we pass what y’all call ‘common sense gun laws’ – which don’t exist – that crime’s just gonna go away… ask the Bahamians how that works. In the Bahamas you can get the death penalty for having a gun, and they have major gun crime every day. So I just want to encourage you when you’re trying to use that as an argument – you might want to research your own facts.”

Here’s the video:

Ok Jeremy, let’s “research the facts”.

Faison is simply wrong that “you can get the death penalty for having a gun in the Bahamas”. From the Bahamian Firearms Act:

Any person who purchases, acquires or has in his possession, uses or carries a gun without a licence therefor shall be liable —

  1. (a)  on conviction on information, to imprisonment for a term of ten years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars;
  2. (b)  on summary conviction before a Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrate, to imprisonment for a term of five years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars

There’s more to it, and the years have since been amended, but absolutely nothing in their laws that says “you can get the death penalty for having a gun.”

As one lawyer in the Bahamas told us:

“I have not heard of anyone being subject to a penalty of death upon being convicted of possessing a firearm in the Bahamas. Those convicted are often given a custodial sentence or made to pay a fine at the discretion of the court.”

Another Bahamian resident:

“Frankly, I don’t think you’ll get the death penalty for anything in the Bahamas. The Privy Council has effectively abolished the death penalty.”

Turns out the last execution in the Bahamas was in the year 2000, and as of August 2012 only one man was under the sentence of death – and he killed a police officer.

So that’s a big ol’ whiff from Jeremy there.

Where Faison has an inkling of a point is that the Bahamas does have restrictive gun laws and yet still high gun violence rates, but pointing to that as proof that in general stricter gun laws don’t work is no more valid than it would be to say that one country with much stricter gun laws has almost no gun violence proves they DO work.

Say Japan, for instance.

Again, studies of the issue in general have shown repeatedly there is a relationship between gun laws and the amount of guns, and gun deaths.

This is a complicated problem with many factors playing a part. The Bahamas and some other impoverished countries do have higher gun violence rats, but when it comes to the richest countries in the world, the United States is simply off the charts regarding gun deaths and gun ownership:

 

The Key Word is “Rich”.

The element that often gets left out of the gun violence conversation is the societal factor that has the highest correlation with gun violence is far and away poverty and wealth inequality.

The World Bank has a study that found:

“violent crime rates decrease when economic growth improves… faster poverty reduction leads to a decline in national crime rates.”

As Mark Kaplan professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs put it:

“There is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality… countries that are most equal have the lowest rates of gun-related homicides.”

Here’s a good conversation about it.

So yes, the Bahamas and Chicago have high murder rates. They also have high poverty rates.

When poverty and inequality are rampant in certain countries/neighborhoods, and people are in dire straits and desperate, bad things happen – particularly when guns are extremely accessible within the vicinity. (Chicago has states with lax gun laws right next door, and the Bahamas has the United States nearby)

This doesn’t mean gun safety laws don’t work. On balance the numbers are clear: They do.

What it does mean is if we’re serious about addressing gun violence in our communities, making them cheaper and even easier to get in already dangerous states is not the answer. Instead, we should be focusing on gun safety legislation and policies that address inequality and poverty:

…Raising our $7.25 an hour minimum wage to a livable one…expanding medicaid… subsidizing daycare for low income families… lowering health care costs and drug prices… tax reform that actually helps regular Americans (rather than corporations and the wealthy)… criminal justice reform…

Programs that put more money directly in people’s pockets, makes their lives better, and takes them out of desperate situations will save lives when it comes to gun violence.

In summation: The Bahamas doesn’t tell us gun laws don’t work. The Bahamas reminds us gun violence is a poverty/inequality problem as much as anything else.

And with all due respect to Rep. Faison, maybe next time you should “research your facts” before saying things that aren’t true on a legislative committee, especially one that’s helping to create a more dangerous environment for our children.

Letting people carry in public without ever firing one is like doing away with Driver’s License tests. If you agree, holler at Rep. Faison HERE.

(P.S. – Gun safety laws and the 2nd Amendment are not incompatible. Ask Justice Scalia.)