A bill moving through the Oklahoma Legislature would allow college presidents and leaders of career technology centers to develop a policy allowing licensed gun owners to carry weapons on their individual campuses.
House Bill 2887, sponsored by state Rep. John Enns, an Enid Republican, was approved by the House last week in a 52-39 vote and is now under consideration in the Senate.
It’s an extremely bad bill that intentionally keeps the door open for allowing students to carry weapons on the state’s campuses. Although it seems unlikely a college president or a career tech leader would develop such a policy, it’s obviously not out of the question here in Oklahoma. Once one campus has allowed guns on campus, it could create political pressure for other campuses to follow suit.
Right now, colleges and career tech schools can allow individuals to carry guns on campus with written consent.
Some Oklahoma legislators have pushed for guns on campuses for several years, using the argument that it would make colleges safer in light of the spate of school shootings throughout the country. The idea is that an armed student or faculty member might be able to stop a shooter.
The push for guns on campus has also been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, which uses the Second Amendment as a political cudgel that often defies basic common sense.
How would those armed students or faculty members, who are not trained as law enforcement officers, actually react if there was a shooter on a campus? What if they killed the wrong person or misjudged the situation? What if a gun carried in a backpack accidently fires and kills someone? What if students intimidate faculty members or other students with their weapons? What if a student becomes distraught or stressed out and makes a terrible decision in one awful moment to fire their gun in a classroom?
College presidents and faculty members have voiced their opposition to guns on campus throughout the years for these reasons and more.
Here’s the bottom line: We need books and computers in classrooms, not guns.
Even the Old West had stricter gun control laws than we do now in this country, and especially in Oklahoma. Let’s hope the Oklahoma Senate embraces this country’s Old West heritage and stops this bill from becoming law.
Here’s the Facebook page for Oklahoma College Faculty Against Guns On Campus.
(Update: I've been told the bill will apparently now go to the Senate Education Committee.)
A House bill that, if signed into law, could lower the quality of scientific education in Oklahoma public schools has been assigned to the Senate Rules Committee and was on its agenda for its meeting today.
House Bill 1674, dubbed the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” requires school districts to “create an environment” that would allow teachers to teach the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” The bill, which has passed the House, is considered by many state academics as a backdoor attempt to present creationism ideas as an alternative “scientific” theory to the theory of evolution in classrooms.
Normally, such a bill has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee, which has killed similar bills in the past. This year, however, it was assigned to the Senate Rules Committee. Political observers contend the full Senate will most likely vote to approve the bill and Gov. Mary Fallin will sign it into law if the rules committee approves it.
It cannot be understated that this bill will lower the quality of education here if some districts feel compelled to present the pseudo-science of intelligent design, which presents creationist ideas as fact. This will help to keep the state’s college graduation level low when compared to the national average as well because some students will be extremely unprepared for general science courses. The state will also garner negative national attention for trying to replace the scientific principle in schools with right-wing religious dogma.
The National Center for Science Education, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education and the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union are among those organizations that oppose the bill.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has passed new rules requiring companies to collect more data related to their wastewater injection wells in the state, but do they go far enough and will the legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin even approve them?
The commission’s action came in response to the growing concern that the dramatic surge in earthquakes here in recent years is tied to the wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater in oil and gas drilling processes, including hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
There is a growing scientific consensus that the surge in earthquakes here and in other states has been caused by the injection wells. In particular, studies have linked a 5.7 magnitude earthquake near Prague in 2011 to injection well activity. That earthquake damaged several buildings.
In the injection well process, the wastewater, which includes chemicals, is injected by high pressure into underground rock formations. Some scientists believe this can destabilize rock layers connected to fault lines and thus result in seismic activity. There have been hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years, most of them small. The state had the second highest number of earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or higher in 2013 in the contiguous United States.
Under the new rules passed Thursday, those companies operating wastewater injection wells in the state would have to maintain records of the daily amount of volume and pressure used in the disposal process. This information would have to be available for the commission. The intent is to determine the possible relationship between individual wells and particular earthquakes.
The action might be viewed as a first step, but some citizens and politicians in other states have called for a moratorium on injection wells as the link between them and earthquakes grows more apparent. Why can’t oil and gas companies simply find a different way to dispose of the wastewater produced by the mini-boom related to fracking? Why put lives and property at risk?
Will the new rules even be approved by the Republican-dominated legislature and Republican Gov. Mary Fallin? The oil and gas lobby in Oklahoma is a powerful force in Oklahoma politics. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association didn’t protest the new rules, according to a media report, but nationwide industry officials have been reluctant to even discuss the issue in the past. Why would they ever want to admit culpability?
Michael Behar, writing in Mother Jones, reported last year that he encountered this reluctance when doing a story on the issue. Behar writes:
For its part, industry is doing its best to avoid discussing the issue publicly, even as its leading professional guild, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, recognized the matter was serious enough to call its first-ever meeting devoted to "injection induced seismicity." Held in September, the SPE's 115-member workshop sought to "better understand and mitigate potential risks." When I reached out to SPE coordinator Amy Chao, she told me, "I appreciate your interest but press is not allowed to attend in any fashion.”
The most prudent action would be to place a moratorium on injection wells in places that have seen a surge in earthquakes. The question comes down to this for state leaders: Are the profits of the oil and gas industry more important than the safety of citizens?