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Behind the Lines: Staring Down the Barrel of 2013

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Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.

Bagley: The "Mayan Doomsday Calendar" cartoon serves as a warning that any predictions should be taken with a grain of salt.

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One of the things I expect to see this year is the Utah Legislature catch the train to Crazy Town. I know, as far as predictions go, that’s not much of a stretch. I’ll be more specific. Our legislators will see to it that there are openly-armed teachers in the classroom and at the same time declare open season on public employees, finding ways to cut back on pay and benefits. They will leave their own health care benefits delivered courtesy of the state of Utah alone. Your turn.

Lambson: The nickel that has been made of copper and nickel heretofore will begin to be made of some cheap amalgam of stainless steel. Jefferson’s likeness will continue to appear on the new nickels. This will serve as a metaphor for how much Jeffersonian ideals have become undervalued, but most people won’t notice. Bagley will continue to say that people who disagree with him are on the train to Crazy Town. That’s not much of stretch. I’ll be more specific. He will continue to criticize Republicans for doing the same things that Democrats do without his criticism. Lambson will continue to point this out. The world will not end; I am willing to take bets on this last one. Back to you.

Bagley: Hey, I’m not the one here who thinks it’s fine if the neighbors own a howitzer.

Lambson: There you go again. I’ve met some of your neighbors. They are very nice people. They are not the ones you should worry about.

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Bagley: True. My predictions for next year do not include any of my neighbors acquiring a military grade arsenal.

Lambson: Nor do I expect signs to appear asserting, "This is a gun-free neighborhood. Please don’t harm us."

Bagley: Which is effectively what your employer, BYU, has done with its "no guns" policy. According to gun-logic, that makes the Provo campus a magnet for roving mad men with guns. I haven’t canvassed my neighborhood, but I would guess guns are rare to non-existent. And yet, it is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is the neighbors know one another and have each other’s back.

Lambson: My final prediction for 2013 is that I will continue to have to point out the ambiguities in the evidence that you cite as supporting your view. For example: in a safe neighborhood, people are less likely to feel the need to own a gun. Peaceful people should be allowed to make their own decisions, as long as they are not harming anyone else. Happy New Year to you and our readers, and may 2013 be less eventful than 2012.

Lambson: The top comment is from livestock1: "As badly as we’d like there to be a pat answer to the issues we face with guns, there may not be one." I don’t know whether the pun on Bagley’s name was intentional, but I enjoyed it anyway.

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