Nearly six months from the President’s State of the Union Address and with four months to the 2014 midterm elections, the Urchin Movement takes a look at some of our respective home states’ most pressing issues.
Despite 238 years of much-celebrated freedom, the states of the union are still trying to find their way. While a fervor surrounds presidential elections, midterm elections for state representatives, senators, and governors see about 20% less voter turnout. If we went through all that trouble to declare our independence, fight for it, and lose the chance to be cool and British, we may as well make the most of it. Know your issues, and vote accordingly.
At least 82 people were shot in Chicago this past weekend. That is more than or near how many people are shot in countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia in an entire year. Closer to home, Chicago has more than double the shootings of both New York and Los Angeles annually, despite having the smallest population of the three.
With statistics like that, which have become par for the course over the past several years, you would think that the city of Chicago, and Illinois in general, would be willing to do anything to ameliorate the situation. The thing is, they’ve tried. Both former mayor Richard Daley and current mayor Rahm Emanuel have made significant efforts, such as banning the sale of guns in the city and banning the concealed carry of firearms. However, both bans were overturned by the courts. Just over a year ago, Illinois became the last state in the country to allow the concealed carry of guns, and Chicago’s gun sale ban was overturned in January.
Police superintendent Garry McCarthy has spoken out against these changes, pleading with lawmakers to increase gun laws. While President Obama has tried to enact stricter federal gun control laws, the majority of the power on the issue lies with the states. Unfortunately, most states make almost no effort to control gun possession or the use of guns. The graphic below from The Guardian shows that in January 2013, only 12 of the 50 states even required a permit or license for someone to own a handgun. Similarly, most states allow people to carry guns on them at any time, both openly and concealed. (Some make exceptions for places like schools and government buildings; others do not.)
Most telling from the graphic, however, is just how deregulated guns are in general, from their sale to their ownership to their care. Seeing the information illustrated like this helps me understand why so many people from around the world have told me over the past few years that they would love to visit the US, but are afraid for their safety. Reading these statistics, you get the sense that you could get shot at any time in the US, anywhere, and you’re right.
On Monday, former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety group will begin to survey all Senate and House of Representative candidates about their stance on a variety of gun-related issues. Watch this space for their report, and make sure you are an informed voter come November.
A priest at St. Sabina parish on Chicago’s South Side said of the city’s gun violence, ‘We’re celebrating independence, but we feel like we’re in prison.’ Americans talk a big game about freedom, but certainly true freedom means not having to constantly fear for one’s life. We like to talk about how great our nation is, but it’s time to finally walk the walk.
If you need yet another reason to be convinced that fracking is harmful, especially in the state of California, how about a statewide drought? A Los Angeles Times article reports that ‘nearly 80% of the state was under “extreme” drought conditions in June, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. Within that area, the amount considered to be in the highest category of drought—”exceptional”—grew from 33% in May to 36%.’
The drought has prompted several extreme water-saving techniques across the whole state, including the pumping of more groundwater in an effort to stabilise the state’s agricultural sector.
Last May, the California State Senate failed to pass SB 1132, a bill that would have initiated a statewide moratorium on ‘all forms of extreme well stimulation,’ including fracking. Despite polls illustrating that a majority of Californians do not support fracking, the bill was most likely defeated in large part thanks to the massive lobbying efforts of oil companies, as well as the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the ‘largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento.’
The already well-known dangers of fracking are now compounded by the drought status in California. State Senator Mark Leno, who co-authored SB 1132 with fellow Senator Holly Mitchell, said, ‘We are currently allowing fracking operations to expand despite the potential consequences on our water supply, including availability and price of water, the potential for drinking water contamination and the generation of billions of polluted water.’
The failed bill’s original press release states: ‘Current California law does not regulate either fracking or acidization. Of the more than 750 chemicals used in fracking, at least 29 of them are known to be harmful to human health. These chemicals, including hydrofluoric acid and benzene, have been linked to cancer, respiratory, developmental, and neurological problems, yet the practice of fracking and other potentially dangerous methods of oil and gas extraction continue to spread.’
Perhaps the most immediately helpful resource for information on fracking in the state of California is the group Californians Against Fracking, a statewide coalition that includes the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental California, and CREDO Action, among others, all working together to ban fracking in California. Visit their website to stay informed on an important issue that is rapidly changing.
‘We have the momentum,’ said Senator Mitchell. ‘This issue’s gone viral nationally, and it’s just a matter of time before the dangers of fracking prompt people to put it on pause until its safety can be established.’