Thursday, February 22, 2007

A quick solution to the "Boni Bill" controversy: Arm social workers

Media reports of a chance encounter between Gov. Fletcher and obstructionist House Speaker (and gubernatorial wannabe) Jody Richards indicate that the two dispensed with pleasantries and spoke rather harshly to one another over the fate of the "Boni Bill," a package of reforms for social workers backed by the governor in the wake of the murder of a western Kentucky social worker named Boni Frederick last year.

While we are naturally predisposed to take Fletcher's side on nearly any situation, and equally predisposed to side against Richards for his and his party's role in holding this state hostage for decades, this situation was particularly egregious.

Richards accused Fletcher of cutting staff positions in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. We don't see how increased staffing could have prevented what happened. The only thing different we can see happening is perhaps another social worker would have been working that case and we'd be discussing the "Brenda Bill" or the "Darlene Bill" instead of the "Boni Bill."

Fletcher has been governor for three years, and all during that time he's had to deal with a hostile House of Representatives led by an obstructionist Democrat named Jody Richards. Richards' henchmen have been in power in Kentucky for decades and they are the ones who have let state government deteriorate. Adding social workers will not help keep them safe from hostile situations.

We deplore what the House has done to the "Boni Bill" in an attempt to keep Gov. Fletcher from getting credit for his reaction to a tragic situation. However, we have a simple and effective answer that would make a positive difference in preserving the safety of social workers and other state employees who find themselves in dangerous situations.

Why not train them in firearms usage, give them concealed-carry permits, and allow them to pack heat when they're out in the field? This could benefit not only social workers, but safety inspectors, highway workers and others who have been threatened in the performance of their duties. If only Boni Frederick had been armed and trained in the use of a weapon, she might be alive today and those who killed her might themselves be dead.

Nearly 50 years ago, the mother of one of our contributors here at K-Pac worked for what was then commonly called Public Assistance. This was way back in the days before GPS locators, inexpensive two-way radio technology and cell phones. Yet the situations these public assistance workers found themselves in were often no less dangerous. The territory covered by the woman in question was rural and isolated and populated with people who did not necessarily appreciate government involvement in what they considered to be their own business. So she carried a gun in her vehicle and she knew how to use it. If necessary, she could have defended herself if her life had ever been threatened.

We fully support Fletcher's proposed changes, but we think state employees whose jobs put them in dangerous situations should have every means available to protect and defend themselves.

Letting social workers and others carry concealed weapons would probably be a more effective protection measure than anything proposed in the "Boni Bill." While we are in favor of the bill as proposed by the administration, we are even more in favor of giving social workers and others a full measure of self-defense.

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