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Saturday shorts: Dingell earned honor

The Detroit News

Rep. John Dingell Jr., the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history, is being given the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his years of service.

The award is as rare as Dingell’s long career in Congress. Only about 10 people receive the honor annually. It is given for an “especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Dingell, 88, decided earlier this year not to seek another term. The Democrat has been a member of Congress for more than 58 years.

The congressional seat has been in the family for more than three-quarters of a century. Dingell was elected in 1955, when at age 29, he won a special election after his father, John D. Dingell Sr., died. Dingell's father had held the seat since 1933.

There’s a chance the family could keep the seat for a century. Dingell’s wife, Debbie Dingell, a Wayne State University trustee and Democratic activist, has been elected to succeed him.

Courts lend a hand to vets

As part of this week’s Veterans Day observance, the Michigan Supreme Court hosted a Veterans Treatment Court Forum recognizing the accomplishments of the state’s 20 veterans’ courts.

The variety of court programs have helped veterans put their lives back together after serving their nation. The courts promote sobriety, recovery and stability by offering alternative consequences and specialized treatment to former and current military service members who get in trouble with the law.

Efforts focus on helping veterans pay whatever debt they may have to society without putting them behind bars. With the state’s over-crowded jails and prisons, this gives taxpayers a break by not adding to the Michigan Corrections Department’s and local strained budgets.

Services for veterans, over the years, have been lacking, but Michigan recently has tried to reverse this situation. The courts are part of the valuable new services and programs being offered to veterans.

Air gun owners get a break

It’s always good to update burdensome laws that have outlived their usefulness.

Michigan lawmakers are expected to approve legislation intended to loosen regulations on BB and pellet guns. The regulations would redefine the term “firearm” to exclude guns that propel a projectile by gas, spring or air.

The National Rifle Association says Michigan has outdated restraints on the purchase and possession of most air guns. Backers of an eight-bill package also note it would bring the state in line with federal standards.

One bill approved 102-6 by the House Wednesday repeals a bothersome law that makes it a misdemeanor for a minor to possess a BB gun unless accompanied by an adult.

A Senate-passed bill pending in the House would prohibit local governments from regulating ownership of paintball and BB guns. However, municipalities would retain some control by being able to limit an air guns’ use to authorized locations or on private property.