• Why Trump’s idea to arm teachers may miss the mark

    President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers has sparked substantial public debate. As researchers of consumer culture and lead authors of a recent study of how Americans use and view firearms for self-defense, we argue that while carrying a gun may reduce the risk of being powerless during an attack, it also introduces substantial and overlooked risks to the carrier and others. Despite the widespread news coverage of mass shootings at schools, the reality is that school shootings are still a rare occurrence. In an FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents that FBI identified between 2000 and 2013, 27 – or about 17 percent – occurred at elementary, middle, and high schools. Given that rarity, the challenges of effectively using a gun to neutralize a shooter without taking additional lives, and added day-to-day risks, we argue that Trump’s proposal would not be effective in making schools safer overall for teachers or students.

  • Helping Georgia companies prepare for natural disasters

    The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is seeking eligible manufacturers to participate in a disaster assistance program designed to help companies that are located in the state’s coastal areas assess their preparedness and develop operational solutions to minimize the impact of future hurricanes and other natural disasters.

  • Election security a high priority — until it comes to paying for new voting machines

    Local election administrators across the country face new problems and threats. But their budgets for new voting equipment remain inadequate. Analysis of voting machines found that over two-thirds of counties in America used machines for the 2016 election that are over a decade old. In most jurisdictions, the same equipment will be used in the 2018 election. In a recent nationwide survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, election officials in 33 states reported needing to replace their voting equipment by 2020. Officials complain the machines are difficult to maintain and susceptible to crashes and failure, problems that lead to long lines and other impediments in voting and, they fear, a sense among voters that the system itself is untrustworthy.

  • Why American teenagers can buy AR-15s

    Nikolas Cruz was too young to buy a pistol at a gun shop. But no law prevented the teenager from purchasing the assault-style rifle he allegedly used to kill at least 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Florida is not unique. In most states, people can legally buy assault-style weapons before they can drink a beer. Federal law stipulates that gun stores and other licensed dealers may not sell a handgun to anyone under the age of 21, but they can sell long guns — that is, rifles and shotguns — to anyone who is at least 18. Twenty-three states have set minimum age requirements for the ownership of long guns, ranging from 14 in Minnesota to 21 in Illinois and Hawaii.

  • Houston-area officials approved a plan for handling a natural disaster — then ignored it

    Seven months before Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area with a trillion gallons of water and led to widespread criticism of the Red Cross, Harris County adopted a disaster-preparation plan whose key assumption was that the Red Cross would be slow to act. “In a major disaster where there is widespread damage, the local resources of the Red Cross may be overwhelmed and not available immediately,” stated the plan. “It may be upwards of seven days before the Red Cross can assume a primary care and shelter role.” But in the seven months between the plan’s passage and the landfall of Harvey, the county took few steps to implement its strategy. Indeed, when dire flooding forced thousands of people from their homes, 3,036 emails obtained in a public records request suggest, officials didn’t even seem aware that a plan existed.

  • Comparing pollution levels before and after Hurricane Harvey

    Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in late August 2017, brought more than 64 inches of rain to the Houston area, flooding 200,000 homes, 13 Superfund sites, and more than 800 wastewater treatment facilities. As disasters become more frequent and populations living in vulnerable areas increase, interest in the health effects of exposure to the combination of natural and technological disasters has grown. A new study examined concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) before and after Hurricane Harvey in the Houston neighborhood of Manchester. Manchester, which is located near refineries and other industrial sites along the Houston Ship Channel, is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood where residents face disproportionate health risks due to pollution and other environmental hazards.

  • Sea level rise will make Oregon’s existing flooding problems worse

    The hot spots of sea level rise in the United States tend to be located on the East and Gulf Coasts, where sinking land and changes in ocean circulation are amplifying the global sea level rise rate. But when we take a deeper dive into our interactive maps of chronic flooding due to sea level rise, it’s clear that small but significant areas within many of Oregon’s idyllic coastal towns–Coos Bay and Tillamook, for example–are also at risk of chronic inundation in the coming decades. Because it will take decades for the benefits of emissions reductions to be felt, today’s business owners may not benefit from such reductions themselves. But for the towns of coastal Oregon to continue to be dynamic, thriving places for the next generation of entrepreneurs and residents, the case for building resilience to flooding and reducing carbon emissions is clear.

  • California’s other drought: A major earthquake is overdue

    California earthquakes are a geologic inevitability. The earthquake situation in California is actually more dire than people who aren’t seismologists like myself may realize. The good news is that earthquake readiness is part of the state’s culture, and earthquake science is advancing – including much improved simulations of large quake effects and development of an early warning system for the Pacific coast. Early warning systems are operational now in Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and Romania. Systems in California and the Pacific Northwest are presently under development with early versions in operation. Earthquake early warning is by no means a panacea for saving lives and property, but it represents a significant step toward improving earthquake safety and awareness along the West Coast. Managing earthquake risk requires a resilient system of social awareness, education and communications, coupled with effective short- and long-term responses and implemented within an optimally safe built environment. As California prepares for large earthquakes after a hiatus of more than a century, the clock is ticking.

  • Prosecuting background check, straw purchase violations depends on state laws

    A new study found that prosecutions in Pennsylvania for violating the state’s straw purchase law increased by nearly 16 times following the 2012 passage of a law requiring a mandatory minimum five-year sentence for individuals convicted of multiple straw purchase violations.  So-called straw purchases involve a prohibited person, such as someone with a criminal record, enlisting the aid of another person to buy the firearm on their behalf.

  • Climate stress puts nearly half of California's vegetation at risk

    Current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are putting nearly half of California’s natural vegetation at risk from climate stress, with transformative implications for the state’s landscape and the people and animals that depend on it, according to a new study. Cutting emissions so that global temperatures increase by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) could reduce those impacts by half, with about a quarter of the state’s natural vegetation affected.

  • The bonus effects of California's water saving

    Measures to cut water use by 25 percent across California were implemented in 2015, following a four-year drought in the state that caused the fallowing of 542,000 acres of land, total economic costs of $2.74 billion, and the loss of approximately 21,000 jobs. The UC Davis researchers found that, while the 25 percent target had not quite been reached over the one-year period — with 524,000 million gallons of water saved — the measures’ impact had positive knock-on effects for other environmental objectives, leading to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and electricity consumption in the state.

  • South Florida faces increasing inland flood threat

    As South Florida raises groundwater levels to fight saltwater intrusion, the threat of inland flooding will only increase, according to newly published research results. Although high groundwater levels in South Florida are a major contributor to inland floods, especially during the wet season or extreme rain events, traditional flood models don’t account for the groundwater beneath our feet, scientists have found.

  • Geologists report new findings about Kansas, Oklahoma earthquakes

    In the more than three decades between 1977 and 2012, only 15 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or greater were recorded in the entire state of Kansas. Since 2012 more than 100 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater have been recorded in only two counties in the state, Sumner and Harper. These include the largest earthquake ever monitored in Kansas in November 2014, a magnitude 4.9 event near the Sumner County town of Milan. The frequency of earthquakes has continued to increase. Between May 2015 and July 2017, sensors detected more than 2,400 earthquakes in Sumner County alone, ranging in magnitude from 0.4 to 3.6. As concern rises about earthquakes induced by human activity like oil exploration, geologists report a new understanding about recent earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma.

  • The border fence looms over these Texans. Should the government pay them?

    Long before President Donald Trump promised to build a wall, Homeland Security used its powers of eminent domain to seize hundreds of acres of land in south Texas to construct a border fence. Under the law, if the government takes or damages your property, it’s supposed to pay to make you whole again. In Texas, the agency has paid $18 million to landholders over the last decade. But scores of Texas landowners who have lived in the shadow of the border fence for years were never compensated for any damage to their property values.

  • Analyzing recent research on causes of gun violence

    In 2015, over 36,000 people died from gunfire in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with roughly two-thirds of those deaths being classified as suicide. America’s gun-murder rate is 25 times that of the other high-income nations, and the gun-suicide rate is eight times as high. Despite these numbers, the last extensive analysis of research into the origins of gun violence, conducted in 2004, was inconclusive. Consensus is growing in recent research evaluating the impact of right-to-carry concealed handgun laws, showing that they increase violent crime, despite what older research says.