Popping the Bubble #13: gun laws, West Virginia strike, and South Africa

Reena Mathews’s a�?Popping the Bubblea�? is a series in which she covers some of the biggest news of the past two weeks. This weeka��s installment marks the thirteenth chapter of this biweekly series.


Trump and the bipartisan gun control meeting

Last week, Trump held a bipartisan meeting of congressional lawmakers in order to discuss the issue of guns. Trump’s position during this meeting, however, shocked those from all sides of the political spectrum.

Trump seemed to take a more liberal stance when it came to the regulation and control of guns– and he was in no way shy about making that clear. He shot down proposals to add the issue of concealed carry to the gun control bill, personally promised to take care of the bump stock ban, brought up the low age requirement for AR-15s and similar guns, agreed to look at a Democratic bill for banning assault weapons, and even confronted conservative politicians for being “afraid of the NRA.”

While the NRA comments certainly surprised many, Trump’s eagerness to bypass due process and immediately take the guns of those who are suspected to be dangerous, as per recently proposed “red-flag” laws, left many appalled, as even most liberals would prefer to allow for due process.

Though many who have been calling for gun control may be overjoyed by this change in heart, Trump has been known to essentially parrot the last thing he was told. On several occasions, Trump has contradicted himself, most recently for example, on the issue of DACA.

As always, there’s really no predicting when it comes to Trump.

West Virginia teacher strike

West Virginia’s average teacher wage pales in comparison to other states, with them coming in at 48th in the nation for teacher pay. As such, a new law was signed to raise teachers’ pay– but this “increase” was only a 2% increase starting this summer, and then a 1% increase in 2020 and 2021 (based on average wage, that’s only an $808 then $404 increase). This supposed increase was even more insignificant for many because of the increased amount many teachers have had to pay for healthcare. In fact, many teachers are forced to take up other jobs, and even then still qualify for government programs like WIC and food stamps.

As a result, teachers began walking out on the 22nd. 20,000 teachers protested and marched, leaving schools across the state canceled for nine consecutive days.

In response, this Tuesday, Governor Jim Justice signed a bill to give all state employees a 5% pay raise, including teachers and school staff. This bill was unanimously approved by both the House and Senate and has come as a massive victory to thousands of frustrated teachers.

In addition, Justice agreed to assemble a task force to address the issue of increased prices of state healthcare.

For now, it seems, teachers will be able to return to their classrooms, and democracy has once again prevailed.

Florida gun bill

The fiery heart of the gun debate has understandably made a home for itself in Florida. Pressure to pass a gun safety bill has been higher than ever in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Now, it appears Florida lawmakers are nearing the final stages of their bill.

As of now, the bill was passed by the Senate this past Monday and was voted on by the House today, though the House already denied three dozen amendments yesterday. The House voted in favor of the bill, meaning it will be written into law within fifteen days unless vetoed or signed by the governor.

The bill goes by the name the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” and declares several provisions on Florida gun laws. For one, the minimum age to purchase a firearm would increase from 18 to 21. Additionally, there would be a three-day wait period for the purchase of firearms, though with some exceptions. The sale and possession of bump fire stocks- which are gun accessories used to elevate a semiautomatic weapon to the firing power of an automatic weapon- would also be banned. As for the issue of mental health, the bill gives more power to law enforcement, allowing them to more easily seize weapons from those reported to be mentally unfit or a threat. Further funding would also be allocated to armed school resource officers and mental health services.

Nevertheless, the most controversial part of the bill would establish a voluntary program to arm school staff. This would exclude all teachers, except those who fill multiple roles within the school, such as teachers who are also coaches or club leaders. Schools could choose to participate or not, and staff members would be required to undergo 144 hours of training to be eligible.

This provision, however, is one that Governor Rick Scott has publicly expressed disapproval for, along with his concern with the waiting period. His support for the bill remains unsure, and he has vowed to meticulously review the entirety of the bill.

South Africa

South Africa has most definitely had an eventful past few months. Here’s a breakdown of the most important headlines:

Cape Town Day Zero:

Cape Town is likely to become the first major city to run out of water. After three consecutive years of minimal rainfall- and climate change-induced natural disasters that are likely linked to the situation- the impending prospect of a complete water shortage has loomed over the city for a while now.

This rather apocalyptic fate had been given a carefully calculated date: July 9. This date, dubbed Day Zero, was to mark when dam levels reached 13.5%, and thus an alternative source of water would be needed. In turn, on this day, Cape Town residents will have to make their way to one of 200 stations to receive the designated amount of water: 25 liters per person daily.

On the bright side, however, it seems the months of regulated rationing have been making a difference as the date of Day Zero has now been shifted forward to July 15.


After nine years of presidency, Jacob Zuma resigned following repeated calls for his resignation from the ruling party, the African National Congress.

Zuma’s presidency has consistently been tarnished with repeated accusations of corruption.

The most recent addition to his long list of accusations was finally enough to drive Zuma out of office when charges were filed against him for corruption, fraud, money-laundering, and racketeering.

South Africans have long since waited for Zuma’s step down, and the popular Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected to take his place.

Expropriation without compensation:

From Dutch colonization to the apartheid, black South Africans have been massively disadvantaged when it comes to the distribution of land.

The end of the apartheid brought about constitutional provisions that directed “reasonable legislative and other measures” to be taken in order to solve the discrepancy. Furthermore, another addition to the bill of the rights allowed for the expropriation of land with compensation, so long as the intent was land reform. Since then, this process has only been used on a voluntary basis.

This method was viewed as slow and ineffective. To this day, the distribution of land remains immensely uneven. In fact, whites still have possession of 72% of the farmland.

To address this issue, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, called for an “expropriation without compensation” bill. Thus, compensation would no longer be required when it came to the forcible expropriation of white-owned land.

Ramaphosa, a member of the other party (ANC), lent his support for this provision, helping to pass the bill.

For now, the bill is being examined by South Africa’s constitutional review committee. They have been given until Aug 30 to decide how to implement the changes to the constitution. After that date, this bill will be law.

Many black South Africans voiced their support for what they believe is a very just and well-deserving change, while others viewed the bill as grossly inequitable.

Only time will tell how this bill will alter the makeup of land distribution in South Africa.