Regardless of intent, denying voting rights for felons is racist

The only argument I’ve seen supporting the permanent deprivation of voting rights to felons is something like, “They committed a crime, so they lost a privilege.” It’s easy to talk like that in the abstract, but given the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, it doesn’t hold up to the facts.

Marijuana, for example, is used by black and white Americans in the same proportions, but blacks are arrested for it at nearly four times the rate of whites, according to The Washington Post. When the process of becoming a felon is unfair, that means the consequences are unfair, too.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

It was adopted specifically to give black people the right to vote, but taking felons’ voting rights undermines that purpose. When we look at the facts — not just our sometimes-Puritanical satisfaction with the idea of punishment — I don’t see how a reasonable person could conclude that permanent deprivation of voting rights for felons is either just or constitutional. Colleen Davis

Background checks for all gun sales

On Jan. 8, a bipartisan group of representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives co-sponsored HR 8, legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales, including private sales — not just sales from federally licensed gun dealers, which is current federal law. This is so commonsense an idea that 85 percent of Americans expressed support for background checks on all gun buyers in an October 2018 Pew Research Poll.

With such broad support, let’s communicate with our own Mitch McConnell, encouraging him to support the bill in the Senate. We want McConnell to rise to our high expectations instead of shrugging our shoulders and accepting that he’ll fall to our low ones.

When Connecticut’s law changed in the 1990s to require background checks at all points of sale and with gun permits, there was a 15 percent drop in the state’s firearm suicide rate and a 40 percent drop in its firearm homicide rate.

After Missouri retracted its firearm permit law (2007) that required background checks, the state saw a 16 percent increase in its firearm suicide rate and a 25 percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.

Tell Senator McConnell to close that loophole to keep American families safer. Laura Johnsrude

Toll of the opioid crisis

As my intensive care unit (ICU) nursing career grows, I often find myself awake in bed struggling with the issues the drug crisis has caused. I’ve come to the realization that people really don’t understand how using drugs can affect their lives. It’s not about the high or even the possibility of death, but the unexpected complications users don’t anticipate.

It’s coming to the ER unresponsive, even after nurses have stabbed multiple doses of Narcan into your thigh because you injected a concoction of heroin, elephant tranquilizer, foot powder and baking soda. Because you are barely breathing, you get a tube shoved down your trachea and shipped to the ICU on a ventilator.

When the drugs wear off and if your brain hasn’t been deprived of oxygen for too long, you’ll wake up to said tube down your throat causing you to gag and feel like you’re suffocating as you fight the ventilator.

However, we can’t adequately sedate you, given that all your brain receptors have been fried. Nurses do their best to speak soothing words while you thrash around in bed feeling like you’re dying.

If you are able to get off the ventilator, the doctors might diagnose you with endocarditis, meaning you have a massive ball of infection attached to one of your heart valves. If you’re lucky, they might be able to remove the valve, and maybe even replace it once you’ve proven you can get clean.

You will find it exhausting to do simple tasks like walk to the bathroom or get a glass of water while your heart struggles to beat efficiently enough to carry oxygen everywhere, and you’ll be stuck in the hospital for weeks getting IV antibiotics through a semi-permanent peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line, in your arm, since we can’t discharge drug abusers with IV access.

If you’re not so lucky, doctors may tell you that every time your heart beats, tiny pieces of the infection have broken off and polluted your bloodstream, causing a huge infection and blocking off blood supply to your lungs or brain. Aside from administering antibiotics, there isn’t much to do. Maybe it’s too late, and you suffered a septic embolic stroke leaving you cognitively inhibited or your left side paralyzed, and the doctors call your mom/spouse/children to ask if they are able to take care of you.

It’s overdosing and having your heart stop, just in time for EMS to arrive and start CPR. Somehow we are able to restart your heart, but your brain went too long without oxygen and you have an anoxic brain injury.

We then have to talk to your family about long-term care – such as performing a tracheostomy to put a hole in your neck for the ventilator or a feeding tube – since you’ll most likely never return to the quality of life you had before.

Trust me, I’m just naming the complications I see the most. That’s why I want to raise awareness about the drug crisis. Stop the issue before it’s even a possibility. Increase health literacy. Abby Swartz