Thoughts and Prayers

    Here we are again. Mere hours since another senseless tragedy involving the loss of life of our children. As a parent, watching these tragedies unfold in our nations schools has been quite difficult. Every day, my wife and I send our kids off to the bus stop for the school system (read our government) to teach them, and then, most importantly transfer custody of our children back to us at the end of the school day. Of all of the unwritten contracts that have been drawn over the years between the taxpayer and the government, this one in particular is of paramount importance.

    Our governmental officials are not fulfilling their contractual obligation. We have lawmakers at current who are either complicit and on the payroll of the gun lobby, willfully ignorant as they covet these same campaign contributions, or heartless. This is not what our government is supposed to represent. The government is supposed to be …of the people, by the people, and for the people., not the will of the largest campaign contributor, corporation, or Super PAC.

    As of the recent tragedy in Florida, there have been a total of 18 school related shootings in the United States in the first 45 days of the new year. In these 18 shootings, 30 have been killed and at least 39  have been injured (there have yet to be released numbers from Florida on the number of sustained injuries). This is unacceptable by any standard. Yet, when lawmakers are faced with the task of doing something…anything to change these statistics, we get the obligatory “thoughts and prayers” followed by “its time to let the families grieve” updated to “this is not the time….”.

    In honor of those killed by guns within the walls of what should be considered the safest of places in our society, I will no longer be offering mere thoughts and prayers. The time for thoughts and prayers has come and gone. I instead pledge my heartfelt condolences and action. Condolences for the grief and tragedy that these parents and families are experiencing. It is beyond my own personal comprehension what they are experiencing. I also hope I will never be in their shoes. Families and parents that have gone through this experience and those who may in the future have this experience form an elite club. The price of admission is much too great for anyone to wish to obtain membership. They have my utmost respect, compassion, and sympathy.

    It is for these reasons that I also pledge action. I pledge to take meaningful action that does not infringe on the constitutional rights of our citizens, but also ensures that those who wish to obtain firearms are lawfully obliged to do so. The approach I take is pragmatic, has a chance of actually being written into law, and protects individual liberty.

    First, legislators need to fix the manner in which state and local agencies report to national instant criminal background check system. Legislation has already been filed (S516) to streamline this process across state agencies and the interface with the national database.

    Second, should any individual be voluntarily or involuntarily hospitalized with an issue related to mental health, the hospital shall report this to the NICS and that individual will have a temporary protective order placed upon their status, and they will not be able to receive a firearm of any type until cleared by a licensed mental health professional of any mental health impairment that precludes them from obtaining a firearm. Types of mental health impairments that would preclude an individual from obtaining a firearm are: self-injurious behavior, wishing to cause harm to self or others, major depression with suicidal ideations, any other mental illness or disorder that is described in the DSM-V as being threatening to life or limb of self or others.

    Third, increased funding to provide every single school in the state with a full-time student resource officer. The student resource officer should be a “plain clothes” police officer who shall be armed with a concealed weapon, but not identified as such to the student body. THE SRO should also cause minimal intraday interruption to curricular learning.

    Fourth, if we have learned anything from the multitude of school-based tragedies over the past 20 years, it is that the individual(s) who carry out these acts are suffering from an unidentified mental health issue as described above. In most cases these issues are long-standing and undiagnosed. We need to increase the access to mental heath professionals as a function of our global healthcare system. Every health care policy sold within the borders of our state must have coverage at minimal cost to the end user for access to mental health care. 

    Fifth, I am fully aware of the fact that gun violence is not carried out by only those who obtain weapons legally, but by those who obtain them illegally. By its very nature, an illegal weapon should not be used by anyone in any circumstance, but they are, this is the reality we face. So, to curb illegal gun violence, we have got to reduce the number of firearms that are available illegally. I prefer a 3-pronged approach to this issue.

First, there needs to be increases in the penalty for those who obtain firearms through so called “straw purchases”. The current penalty for both the purchaser and the individual for whom the purchase is made is “up to” 5 years in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both. This is also the penalty for any felony firearms charge. This is again woefully inadequate. The penalty for straw purchases should be a minimum of 20 years jail time and a fine of $20,000 (note the use of the word “and”). This is the main way illegal firearms make their way onto the street, so the punishment should be accordingly severe.

Second, if a firearm is used during the commission of a felony, the above sentence of imprisonment, fine, or both is again applied. I would be inclined to double the penalty for this circumstance to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $4,000 and have the penalty include both the sentence and the fine, rather than ambiguity.

Third, any individual found to be in possession of a firearm which has previously been reported as stolen or has been acquired through any other illegal means shall be subject to imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of $4,000 plus restitution to the original owner.

                None of what I am proposing should be interpreted as anything more than gun safety reform. What I am proposing keeps guns out of the hands of those who wish to only do harm to others or themselves while simultaneously preserving individual and personal liberty. Our children’s lives are our most precious commodity and we should do anything and everything to ensure they are safe at school and in their own homes. My proposals focus on common sense, punishes criminals, and keeps the government out of the lives of law abiding citizens. It is also providing something more substantial than a mere offer of thoughts and prayers and then going right back to the status quo.

Leadership (or lack therof)

     Leader is more than a word or title for one who supervises others. A leader accepts responsibility when doing the right thing is not necessarily the popular thing. A leader demands accountability when there is a lack of performance, while subsequently crediting others during periods of success. Leaders take the blame when things are going wrong and gives the credit to others when things are going right.  Leadership is not a tangible asset, but is a concept built on various character traits such as integrity, dependability, honesty, and imagination among many others.

     I served my community as a firefighter for thirteen years. I began as a probationary firefighter, completed fire training school, was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant, a position I held for six years, and finally left the fire service having attained the rank of Captain, which I held for 3 years. The titles I held made me a supervisor. Having my peers recognize that I possess the character traits necessary of a successful leader and having them select me to progressively higher ranks within our department is what molded me into a leader.

     A successful leader on the fire ground is one who thinks and acts instinctively. Mental risk vs. benefit analyses are run constantly while directing operations. This type of leadership requires one to fall back upon his or her extensive training and make instantaneous decisions that have potential life and death consequences. Such leadership is a rare commodity, even on the fire ground. It is exceptionally rare in todays politics.

     From the White House to the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. and the Governors mansion to the statehouse right here in Columbia, there is a complete and total abdication of the responsibilities of leadership. This is not hyperbole. It has been demonstrated to us time and again, at every single level of government.

     There has been a complete abandonment of leadership responsibility in our state. The current Governor decided that it was not in the best interest of the taxpaying citizens to have their children transported to school in busses that don’t catch fire. Luckily the General Assembly saw this as the significant safety issue that it is and as soon as the legislative session returned in January, quickly overrode the bus veto by a significant margin in the House and unanimously in the Senate. The General Assembly has brought us the VC Summer debacle, the Pascoe probe, and the extreme partisan gerrymandering; the culture of corruption has become as much of a part of the statehouse as the statue of John C. Calhoun that greets you in the lobby. Elected officials are demonstrating that they only care about attaining power, retaining that power, and using their office to enrich themselves personally.

                We elect our legislators to represent our will, not to utilize their office for personal enrichment or the needs of the special interests and lobbying groups.

                Our schools rank dead last in the nation.

                Our state ranks dead last in the nation for roads safety.

     We rank 48th in economic Opportunity, 46th in Health Care Affordability, 43rd in infrastructure and household income, 42nd in labor force participation, 4th worst in Property Crime, 5th worst in domestic violence, 6th worst in violent crime, and 7th worst for violent crime.

     By any metric, these statistics show a total, complete, and utter failure of our state government on every single level to operate in the best interest of the taxpayer. These statistics show a complete abdication of the responsibilities of leadership.

     It is time for the residents of Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, and Mount Pleasant to elect a proven leader to the statehouse who believes in the values of honesty, integrity, and dependability. We need a leader who will stand up and fight for what is right, not what is politically expedient. The people of the 112th district agree. I will stand up to the special interests and lobbying groups and tell them to keep their hands off our wallets. I will fight to ensure that no matter a family’s socioeconomic status that they receive a quality education. I will fight for healthcare reform including Medicaid expansion. I will fight for responsible development and work with the local municipalities on finding solutions to the traffic gridlock and increasing access and delivery of economical public transit. I will fight for our environment to retain the natural beauty of our homes and ensure that not one single oil derrick is placed off our shore. I will fight for economic prosperity and ensure that anyone who wishes to have a good, quality, high paying job is able to get one. I will fight against the culture of corruption in our statehouse and bring honesty and integrity back to our institutions. Most importantly, I will fight for the people of our district.

                The people of our district and our state deserve to have an ethical and honest leader who is not afraid to live by the saying “it’s not about who is right, it’s about what is right” 



*statistics courtesy of US News and World Report and the State newspaper *