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Chicago Sun-Times

Had the United States, like almost every other civilized country, long ago banned the general sale and ownership of assault weapons, 20 men, women and children in El Paso, Texas, still would be alive today.

It would not matter, reprehensible as it is, that President Donald Trump has been stirring up hatred toward immigrants. The killer at the Walmart, who apparently fumed online about "the Hispanic invasion of Texas" just before his rampage, could not have been so lethal without his military-style semiautomatic rifle.

In the same way, it would not matter what drove the killer in downtown Dayton, Ohio, early on Sunday morning. Were it not for his assault-style weapon — reportedly a .223-caliber rifle — nine people still would be alive today. The police shot the killer down in less than a minute, but too late.

And it would not matter what drove the killer at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California. Were it not for his AK-47-style assault rifle, a little boy, a teenage girl and a 25-year-old man still would be alive.

It's about the guns. Every other explanation can get in line.

The United States has seen 251 mass shootings in 216 days this year, defined as incidents in which four or more people were shot or killed — not including the shooter — and the only common denominator is that somebody had a gun who should not have had one, often a knock-off of a military gun designed to mow down soldiers in combat.

We tell ourselves that our nation has a mental health problem but, as The New York Times reports, studies show that Americans have no more mental health problems than do people in other countries with far fewer mass shootings.

We tell ourselves we're a more violent society, but studies say that's not true, either. We're just more lethal, with our guns, when we turn violent.

Because it's about the guns.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

It's easy to forget, during the tumult of summer, just how bad the state of Illinois' finances are.

That's why a recent report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is welcome. It provides a timely reminder that state officials can run from fiscal reality, but not hide.

After reviewing the finances of the 50 states across five categories, researchers concluded that Illinois ranks "50th among the U.S. states for fiscal year." In other words, it's the worst.

All but one of Illinois' neighboring states — Kentucky ranked 46th — scored appreciably better in the 180-page report prepared by Mercatus researchers Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez.

Missouri ranked No. 15, Indiana No. 21, Wisconsin No. 26, Iowa No. 29 and Michigan No. 32.

Researchers found "Illinois has between 0.55 and 1.13 times the cash needed to cover short-term obligations, well below the U.S. average. Revenues only cover 92 percent of expenses, with a worsening net position of -$450 per capita. In the long run, Illinois' negative net asset ratio of 2.86 points to the use of debt and large unfunded obligations. Long-term liabilities are higher than the national average, at 330 percent of total assets, or $12,816 per capita. Total unfunded pension liabilities that are guaranteed to be paid are $445.79 billion, or 67 percent of state personal income. OPEB (other-post-employment benefits) are $51.90 billion, or 8 percent of state personal income."

That's a polite way of saying that the state's finances are, essentially, a dumpster fire.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker's solution is to do more in the future of what's been done in the past — dramatically increase both taxing and spending.

While the future is a mystery, there's no doubt about the present. Things are bad and can get even worse, even though Illinois' fiscal picture is the worst in the nation.

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

There are a number of reasons Illinois has its well-deserved reputation for sordid politics, beyond the fact that so many of our governors end up in prison.

One of them is how easily our state politicians are influenced by special interests. Because of the nature of our state politics, even some our most well-meaning legislators, frankly, end up being compromised. Few are in any position to exert real independence.

It's not just the money in politics that undermines our republican democracy. It's also the influence peddlers who operate in Illinois almost without significant regulation.

Illinois state government needs a number of reforms, as we and others have pointed out repeatedly.

One reform that could be adopted overnight and have impact overnight would be a ban on the overnight transition from officeholder to paid lobbyist.

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