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Smart talk, June 25



Brothers in arms


The Tennessee legislature is more kindly disposed to guns than even Arkansas. This year, it has expanded the number of places concealed weapons can be carried and even allowed the carrying of loaded rifles and shotguns in vehicles. But the Tennessee Senate drew the line, as the Arkansas Senate recently did, at ending public access to the list of people who hold concealed weapon carry permits. That's more than 200,000 people in Tennessee.

With the session drawing to a close, a House-passed bill to close the records was defeated last week. It got a 14-13 vote, with 17 needed for passage. Opponents, who were willing to compromise on a bill that allowed access, but not publication of the names, argued that it was a bad precedent to close public records. Inspection has its value. Some 1,200 felons have lost permits in the last four years in Tennessee, with many more suspended for domestic violence and criminal charges. The publication of the list by The Commercial Appeal in Memphis caused a furor in the gun lobby and prompted the legislation. Those Tennessee events prompted the Arkanas Times' Internet publication of the Arkansas list, which in turn set legislation in motion here. The compromise Arkansas legislation ultimately limited public information to names and ZIP codes of permit holders.


Sex education


It is not a crime for an adult to have sex with an 18-year-old person. But it is a crime if the adult is a teacher and the 18-year-old is a student.

Melissa Monroe, a former Bentonville school teacher, learned that lesson the hard way last week. She pleaded guilty to having sex with a student on his 18th birthday. (Blabbing about it to another teacher had got her arrested.) Circuit Judge David Clinger sentenced her to 120 days in the county jail and five years of supervised probation for second-degree sexual assault. Monroe appeared at the plea hearing with her husband. Her lawyer told reporters the family was trying to “heal” and “move forward.”


Let there be beer


After decades of restricting package sales of alcoholic beverages in Fayetteville to liquor stores, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is opening the door ever wider to beer sales at convenience stores, if not at regular grocery stores. It approved a third convenience store beer permit last week.

But the ABC drew the line at making beer sales more convenient in one neighborhood. It turned down a permit for an E-Z Mart near an apartment-lined street north of the University of Arkansas campus. Police said it was a high crime neighborhood. According to an account in the Morning News, ABC Board member J.J. Vigneault cited crime in moving to uphold denial of the permit.

“They ought to take a bulldozer and bulldoze about the whole neighborhood down there, it looks like,” he said.

Vigneault didn't say how he viewed permits or the need for bulldozers in the numerous other high-crime neighborhoods in the state with not only convenience store beer permits, but hard likker. E-Z Mart CEO Sonja Hubbard said she thought some store neighbors would be “offended” at the way their neighborhood had been depicted.



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