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Battleground: Iowa

Please do not ignore this rare time that, every four years, the nation’s most influential politicians come to kiss Iowa’s ass.

Iowa’s now a battleground for both candidates, sending their campaign mercenaries into our large cities and vast fields to appear as attractive as possible.

Both Bobby Jindal and Bob McDonald will be touring around eastern Iowa in Mitt Romney’s bus, campaigning for the Olympics-bound candidate.

It’s chances like this where the politically interested get excited to see the future of American politics like, for example, Jindal, the youngest governor in the union right now.

Jindal ran and won in Louisiana on a platform valuing the ethical reform for politicians, and he actually forced his state politicians into action. He required increased disclosure of financial reports from his elected officials, stopped their ability to take unlimited free meals from lobbyists, and prohibited officials from entering in private contracts with their state.

And politicians are flocking by the busload — literally — from both sides of the spectrum into our state to meet and greet and fill the public with free refreshments and promises.

These public appearances by political officials are valuable because of their ability to provide an unfiltered version of the news that’s most desired by Americans.

It’s Twitter on steroids. The face-to-face opportunity can provide the audience an opinion on a politician that never would come through the prepared CNN interviews and press releases. There are slip-ups. There are triumphs. There’s charm and there’s distance.

And, somewhere in the crowd, there should be you.

Jacob Lancaster

Gun laws need revision

For me, it’s impossible to envision an America without guns.

Guns are part of the foundation of this nation, listed right after freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. Guns have been as much a right as life, liberty, and happiness, since 1791.  

All that tells me is that our laws regarding guns need to be revised — just like laws regarding other rights have been revised.

The counterargument, strongly vocalized by members of the NRA, is that the government should be limited, not the people’s freedoms.

To that, I say all rights have limits. It’s also the right of the people to vote — unless they are convicted felons or children. And voting just isn’t quite as dangerous as owning and carrying a gun.

Gun laws should include background checks for the trade of any firearm, including at a gun show or online. Online sales often require a federal firearms license, but the amount of bulk ammunition purchased is effectively unregulated.

We needn’t limit the number of guns people buy, or the amount of ammunition, but don’t be fooled. Upstanding citizens who want to own guns will not be denied a gun after a background check.

However, those who are convicted felons, have outstanding warrants, or have proven themselves clinically unstable should be denied the right to own a gun for the safety of themselves and those around them.

The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed because it is necessary for a free state. However, at some point guns stop promoting a free state rather just a violent state.

The FBI Uniform Crime Report documents that 67.5 percent of all murders in the United States as of 2010 included firearms — and that doesn’t even consider the numbers of assaults and robberies including firearms.

I approve of the right to defend ourselves and keep our nation free, but I refuse to allow guns to control what should be a free nation.

Katie Kuntz

Biking, camping, and good times
All this week, bicyclists have been riding through the Hawkeye State as part of RAGBRAI.

Yes, thousands of bikers have been traveling from the Missouri River since Sunday, and they are expected to reach their destination, the Mississippi River, Saturday.  

RABRAI offers a tremendously enjoyable experience for all of its riders and is no doubt a terrific event for the state of Iowa.

The roughly 468-mile trip this year began in Sioux City, and it will finish in Clinton. This is the 40th anniversary of the oldest, largest, and longest bicycle-touring event in the world.

After a full day’s worth of riding, most participants camp out at the campgrounds organized by RAGBRAI and enjoy a night of good camaraderie and good times.

As Iowa City’s World of Bikes has been busy preparing local riders for their journeys through eastern Iowa, employee Eddy Parks said the event attracts people from not just Iowa but surrounding states as well.

The organization allows participants to do the entire trek, or just part of it, whichever the rider desires. It has made it so the event always goes from west to east, making the journey more enjoyable as the wind tends to come from the southwest at this time of the year.

Not only has RAGBRAI created an extremely successful and operational event, the organization donates funds to nonprofit Iowa programs and organizations through the *Des Moines Register*’s community-investment program after all expenses are covered.

The organization will be bringing live music to its riders all week long and most notably, once the riders reach Thursday’s final destination of Cedar Rapids, participants will be able to attend a concert presented by RAGBRAI, featuring the Counting Crows.

RAGBRAI is truly a great event to have here in Iowa, and I wish the organization and its riders nothing but the best.

Matthew Williams

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