Feb. 20 Mail: Assault Weapons, Education Reform and Equal Rights

What’s an Assault Weapon?
When talking about gun control, we need to decide what the liberals call an “assault weapon.” The way I see it, they mean an automatic weapon like the M-16 or AK-47.

These rifles can be set to fire on automatic, which means the operator has to pull the trigger only once and leave it pulled until the clip is empty. They can be set to semi-automatic, which means you have to pull the trigger every time you want it to fire. That’s where the weakness in the gun ban exists. Sen. Diane Feinstein, Hillary Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Brady Bunch, et al, know that a .25-caliber automatic (a good gun for a woman to carry; it’s small, with little recoil), a .38-caliber revolver and similar pistols will fire every time the trigger is pulled, therefore they are “assault weapons” and need to be confiscated or banned from further sale — and no more ammunition sold for these.

You don’t think that the government can come to your house and take all your weapons? It happened after Katrina hit New Orleans. When you buy a weapon at a gun store or pawn shop, there’s a paper trail. The citizens of New Orleans found this out; the very people that needed weapons the most were left defenseless against roaming looters. Not one of these weapons was returned to the owners. The NRA, through the Freedom of Information Act, found out that these weapons are in storage, rusted beyond repair.

As for accidental shootings at gun shows, a few days training on a shooting range can prevent this. I have been through many classes on how to handle weapons and refresher courses. The first thing they teach you is that every gun is loaded (even if it’s not). Then they teach you to always point a weapon toward the ground, then they let you fire a weapon for a day and teach you the proper way to store it in your home, and proper maintenance. Guns only have two enemies: rust and politicians.

Roy Miller
St. Augustine

Two Sides of Education Reform
Frank Denton, editor of The Florida Times-Union, when suing for teachers Value Added Model scores, half their evaluations, swears they will present both sides of the education reform argument. He says so like there is a moral equivalency between the two camps, like it’s two cordial gentlemen just having a disagreement — and therein lies the problem because nothing could be further from the truth.

One side doesn’t rely on facts or data, preferring to go with their gut or what will profit them and theirs regardless if it’s what’s best for our children. They spread misinformation about the quality of teachers and run around like Chicken Little screaming, “The sky is falling,” except they say teachers are failing our children instead.

They rely on low information members of the public who have been programmed to think anything the government does is bad and can’t be bothered with doing the research themselves, not that they think there is any education research. Ashley Smith Juarez, a Duval County School Board member, and Gary Chartrand, the chair of the state Board of Education, for example, are both on record saying that there is no evidence that smaller classes work, when there is tons of evidence that says it does. I am sure it’s no coincidence that they don’t think teachers are professionals either.

There is no moral equivalence between a side that exaggerates cherry-picked stats, supports Jeb Bush’s “Florida miracle” that has been thoroughly debunked, ignores evidence, seeks to inflame people’s passions by saying our public schools are failing, uses catch slogans like “school choice” when what they are actually selling is privatization, and marginalizes teachers, a dedicated, hard-working group that sacrifices so much, and a side that doesn’t do those things. And to imply there is some moral equivalency between corporate reformers and those fighting for true, evidence-based reform, where teachers are treated like professionals, is insulting.

Is it too much to ask that education reforms be based on evidence and facts and that we slow down and get things right?

Is it too much to ask that schools get the proper resources to do their jobs before we label them failures and seek to close them?

Is it too much to ask that we don’t ignore poverty, which is the No. 1 factor in determining success in our schools? In short, kids who live in it don’t do as well as those who don’t.

Is it too much to ask that we don’t destroy the teaching profession? Low pay, getting rid of pensions, saying their experience and ability don’t matter, as well as ratcheting up the demands, is going to drive people from the profession. Already nearly half of all teachers don’t last five years, and people forget that just a few years ago, we were recruiting in Canada, India and the corporate world because we couldn’t find enough teachers to staff our classrooms.

Is any of that unreasonable? I will do you one better.

You want charter schools? Fine, let’s make sure teachers have credentials, aren’t worked to death and receive proper wages as well as make sure the programs are good and the public’s money isn’t used to line the pockets of charter school managers and management boards.

You want vouchers to send kids to private schools? Sure, let’s just make sure those private schools have accountability measurements in place and ESOL and disabled students can use them, too.

You want merit pay? OK, let’s first make sure all teachers have decent wages, and then, if the powers-that-be want to develop a “fair” system to pay some teachers a little more, I don’t think anybody will complain.

But do you know what charter schools, vouchers and merit pay have in common? They are the crown jewels of the corporate reform movement and evidence that says they either don’t work or they don’t work any better.

There is no moral equivalency between the two sides and to imply there is, is disingenuous at best but, most likely, it makes one complicit with the side that wants to outsource, not improve, our kids’ education and fundamentally change the teaching profession, changing teachers from professionals to the equivalent of fast-food workers.

There’s a saying that’s getting traction: “Those that can, teach; those that can’t, make laws about teaching.” This is what’s happening in Florida to the detriment of our children, schools and teachers.

What side do you fall on?

Chris Guerrieri

Comments on Whether Jacksonville City Council Should Reintroduce an Amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance
The city of Jacksonville is a great city made up of many diverse individuals. For our city to continue to grow and prosper, we must continue to make all individuals feel protected and embraced. By passing such an ordinance, the city takes a giant leap forward for equality and lets all citizens know they are cared about and protected to the best of our city/county government’s ability. Failure to enact such legislation will only reflect poorly on the elected officials and result in more lost jobs, lost tax revenue and less cultural expansion of this great city. The City Councilmembers cannot allow the 15 percent of this city’s population to hold us back in the style of hatred experienced in Jacksonville during the ’60s. One would hope and pray that our mayor would step up, take ownership and champion such legislation for a class of individuals that are underserved and not protected in our city. We must continue to champion the cause of EQUALITY for all citizens of Jacksonville.


The original 2012-296 was an all-inclusive bill protecting the rights of the LGBTQ; the amendment to that bill did not include gender identity or gender expression. Should the city reintroduce an amendment? Before anyone should agree to this amendment, we would need to see if it’s an all-inclusive amendment. It’s difficult at this stage to know how to answer this question without clarification. The amendment of bill 296 meant that heterosexuals could encounter discrimination if they were gender non-conforming, such as men with effeminate characteristics or expressions, women with male temperaments or who might dress in suits or have male characteristics. The politics of gender expression are mainstream and have changed — even among heterosexuals. The dress reform movement no longer is gender-specific, and ceremonial dress might traditionally continue to be a practice at weddings and other traditional celebrations, but even these are morphing into a style unique to the individual. Jacksonville residents must understand that when presumptions are made of another human being, that individual may very well not be a lesbian simply because she wears a suit or tie with her high heels any more than the same can be said of the businessman wearing a pink tie. Jacksonville doesn’t even have communities representative of all cultures. We cannot afford not to include protections for the LGBTQ.


As a member of the LGBT community, I firmly believe that the last time it came up, we got stabbed in the back by some political maneuvering in the background. I also know there were a lot of straight folks in our community who thought the vote would be “a no-brainer” and did not get personally involved as they should. There will be a lot of them who’ll bring their voices to the table this time, so YES, I believe we should bring it up every new session of the City Council, until they finally decide to join the 21st century and follow the rest of this country in treating us as equal citizens! o