Government transparency after the missile threat

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The following editorial was originally printed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday March 6, 2018 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Zachary Espino
Kailua High School, Class of 2016
Waimanalo Neighborhood Board No. 32

Accountability and leadership. That’s what we demanded from the administration and our elected officials on the January 13th, 2018 false missile alarm scare. As a result of the event, it was evident that our state needed to be better prepared and ready for whatever comes our way. The lack of government responsiveness that resulted in a delay of relaying information to the people of Hawaii was unacceptable. Everyone was waiting on the government’s official statement on the false missile crisis. People wanted those behind the false missile alarm to be held accountable for what happened. Our government has a responsibility to be open and transparent, which was severely lacking during the aftermath of the January 13th event.

If there is anything I believe from the events of that Saturday morning, it is that the power of the message alert button needs to be removed from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, and placed in the hands of our armed services. They are better equipped with well-trained personnel that have prepared for any event resembling a missile threat. The button should not be in the hands of state employees, who are more susceptible to feeling wary or unsure, but with those who have the proper training and expertise. I have complete confidence that our military will be able to better serve our island community by being better managers and confident communicators.

The demand for a change in leadership and increased accountability is more evident today than ever before. The failure to respond and the lack of leadership from our state’s emergency management agency resulted in people believing it was their last day. The sudden event was a wakeup call as to how emergency preparedness efforts should be properly maintained and operated. Most notably, people demanded a quicker and more responsive approach to ensure the people were appropriately updated, especially in the instances where the information was already known.

Moving forward, this event serves as a general reminder for us all. People were left wondering how they could have been better prepared. Not only is the proper information important, but everyone needs to have the adequate tools and resources. We should start by ensuring there are more efforts towards informing communities about disaster plans for events in a missile or natural disaster. There should be collaborations between local, state, and federal levels of government to educate more people in our communities. There should be investments in making sure the proper testing and training of emergency equipment and personnel is done. There are so many things that can be done and these strides to invest more time and effort is of utmost importance.

We all have a part in making sure that we are prepared for events like the one on January 13th. We live in very scary times, where we have to question our safety and security, and we have to do all we can to make sure that we can offer a safer and more secure future for the generations to come.

Pro-Gun Control: The Economics of Gun Control

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By: Patrick Leonhardt
Kalaheo High School, Class of 2018

The following editorial was originally printed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday February 4, 2018 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

Generally, pro-gun control arguments approach the issue from a human perspective, discussing loss of life, injuries, or preventable massacres. However, gun control also provides an economic boon. “Common-sense” gun control measures, such as universal background checks, no-fly list bans, and specific bans, will preserve the profits or production efficiency of the firearms industry in the United States, reduce economic losses related to gun violence, and make firearms prohibitively expensive to purchase illegally.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates the total contribution of the arms industry to be $42.9 billion or approximately 0.24% of United States GDP. In addition, the firearms industry provides full-time employment for 263,200 Americans. Fortunately, gun control legislation doesn’t actually seem to reduce production or sales. In the year 1994, right after the Brady Bill, which implemented background checks and handgun waiting periods, national production actually increased by about 100,000 units. Thus, we cannot expect severe economic repercussions from similar ownership restriction laws.

Even the ban of specific weapons would have little impact. A majority of firearms produced in the United States are handguns and shotguns, not the military-style weapons that may be subject to bans. A ban on such weapons will make a remarkably small dent on profits, which will be remedied by increased handgun or shotgun sales. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in the years following the Brady Bill, while production did decrease in rifles, it increased in both shotguns and handguns. The industry will remain safe from any significant losses.

The firearms industry does incur relatively high costs on US production, some of which can be remedied through aforementioned “common-sense” gun legislation. Americans pay $8.6 billion in gun-related hospital costs a year.  When we consider more facets of the issue, the bill gets higher. All told, including lost wages, legal proceedings, police investigation, and long term medical costs, gun violence costs the United States $229 billion, according to a recent report from the Mother Jones. This is approximately 1.3% of our GDP, and 87% of those costs are covered by taxpayers. It is worth noting that the gun industry’s contribution to GDP only disproportionately covers about 1/7 of the costs guns violence incurs. However, gun control legislation could cut these costs. Preventing malicious individuals from obtaining high-powered rifles reduces both costs related to injuries and the accompanying legal and investigative fees.

Groups like the NRA often posit that criminals will always obtain firearms, regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, this argument makes little sense economically. By restricting the sale of specific weapons, the government drives down the availability of such weaponry to consumers while simultaneously increasing prices. In addition, such restrictions will likely propel targeted weapons off of the open market and into the “black market.” This shift decreases  access even further, and black market suppliers will inflate prices due to the increased risks and costs of doing business. In the end, restricted weapons become prohibitively expensive to criminal elements.

Specific restrictions on gun ownership would be economically efficient for the United States. Through direct, precise, and well-enforced laws, we can maintain the current contribution of the firearms industry to productivity, cut costs related to gun violence, and prohibitively increase the price of illegal arms. Even in the vacuum, only looking at the impartial, impersonal data, one can see the reality. Gun control greatly enhances the functioning of our nation.