Calling the question on guns

A week after a gunman mowed down 25 members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas, worshippers from the church gathered yesterday for Sunday services — this time in a makeshift sanctuary under a large white tent on a nearby baseball field. The church itself now stands more as a shrine to the destructive power of guns than the healing power of God.

The latest mass shooting in the US has prompted another round of what has become a painfully predictable set of competing responses: We need stronger gun laws. No, the issue is mental health problems and domestic violence, an early warning sign of volatility and the potential for mass harm. (The Air Force admitted that it failed to enter the shooter’s domestic-violence court martial into a federal database that could have blocked his gun purchases.)

Finally, there are those who say, remarkably, that the problem in a country with more than 300 million guns in civilian hands is not too many guns, but too few, and that arming more people who could quickly take action in a case like this would be best the way to cut losses from a mass shooting.

Richard Parker, writing in yesterday’s New York Times, zeroes in on the fact that the latest mass shooting took place during a worship service. If nothing has, “this cries out for people of faith to act,” he writes.

And by act, Parker says, Christians need to do more than  pray. “Christianity demands action,” he writes. “It insists on the protection of the innocent. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas justified war in self-defense, but he also opposed the killing of innocent civilians. ‘Aquinas holds that causing the death of innocents in a foreseeable manner, whether intentionally or indirectly is never justified,’” divinity scholar Daniel Weiss tells him.

But just what kind of action might meaningfully reduce the “death of innocents”?

David Scharfenberg takes on that question in Sunday’s Globe Ideas section. His starting point is the 1996 mass shooting in Australia that claimed 35 lives, which led to one of the most dramatic actions a country has ever taken to stem the toll of gun violence.

In less than two weeks, Australia enacted sweeping new gun laws, banning automatic and semi-automatic weapons and imposing a strict registration system, including a 28-day waiting period for new gun purchases. The most far-reaching part of the plan was a mandatory gun buyback in which the government paid people to turn in weapons that were now not allowed in civilian hands.

It’s estimated that about one-fifth of the weaponry in private hands in the country was turned in. There has been a 59 percent drop in Australia’s firearm homicide rate since then, and there has not been a single mass shooting, defined as a killing of five or more people. The new gun laws may not explain all of the reduction, but they surely played a big part.

John Rosenthal, the co-founder of Massachusetts-based Stop Gun Violence, tells Scharfenberg he thinks it may be time for some similar sort of mandatory gun buyback in the US.

“The trouble with all of this is that America is not Australia,” writes Scharfenberg, who outlines all the reasons why such a proposal  would face very steep odds in our gun-crazed culture.

“It is hard to overstate the devotion — or if you prefer, the fanaticism — of the 3 percent of the population that owns half the guns in circulation,” he writes.

No one wants to return to the scene of these bloody massacres, and it’s hard to blame them. Church leaders in Sutherland announced last week that the building would be razed, just as Sandy Hook Elementary School was torn down following the massacre there of 20 first-graders and six adults in 2012.

But obliterating the scenes of the crimes can’t erase the fact that we are the only advanced country that experiences mass shootings on this scale, and that the only reasonable explanation for why, “an explanation borne out by a number of careful studies” writes Scharfenberg, “is the sheer size of the American arsenal.”

–MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association comes out in support of the House criminal justice reform bill. (MassLive) Eldin Lynn Villafañe, a former official with the New York City Department of Correction, explains why he believes criminal justice reform is needed. (CommonWealth)

National Grid comes up with a novel way of lobbying on the Massachusetts clean energy procurement — enlist the help of New Hampshire lawmakers. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial decries a Baker administration push to have the state take over environmental regulation of waterways from the federal Environmental Protection Agency — and urges the Legislature to reject the change, arguing that state regulators will more easily bend to calls from cities and towns to go easy on them when it comes to costly fixes to stormwater runoff problems.

State GOP chairwoman Kirsten Hughes, in a wide-ranging interview about the recent election and upcoming prospects for her party’s candidates, acknowledged she has been the victim of sexual harassment throughout her career. (Keller@Large)

John Donohue of the Arbella Insurance Foundation says a tougher distracted driving law is needed. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Three medical marijuana companies get the green light to open shop in Peabody after they pledge not to transition to retail sales. (Salem News)

The Sunday Globe reports on the awarding of liquor licenses in Cambridge, a Wild West non-system where some applicants are able to get the coveted permits for free while others end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a license.

Attorney General Maura Healey is threatening to place a Braintree apartment complex into receivership unless the out-of-state owners address the numerous health and safety violations that town officials have repeatedly cited in inspections in dozens of apartments. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

John MacDonald, an Air Force veteran who serves on the board of Veterans Assisting Veterans, appeared on Fox & Friends calling for fans to boycott NFL games because of players taking a knee during the national anthem. (Lowell Sun)

An investigation alleges a range of misconduct took place in the US Marshals office in Boston. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Joe Battenfeld argues fairly persuasively why the most popular governor in America nonetheless has reason to worry about his reelection prospects next year. (Boston Herald)

Entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai, who was pursuing the Republican nomination for US Senate, says he’s pulling out of that race and will run for the seat as an independent. (Boston Globe)

Now and then: Hillary Chabot offers a reminder that Mitt Romney, who has called for Roy Moore to drop out of the Alabama Senate race, defended Massachusetts Republican congressional candidate Jeff Perry in 2010 against what Romney said were “made-up” charges from a woman who said at age 14 she was strip-searched by a male police officer under the command of then-Wareham police supervisor Perry. (Boston Herald)

Huh? Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald decries the double-standard being applied to Moore, but then applies it himself, simply reversing the cast of characters, as he slams those who ignored “compelling reports of  Bill Clinton’s lechery,” but are now going after Moore based on “unfounded accusations.”

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, after his narrow victory over bitter rival William Lantigua, conducts an interview at the same bench used by Lantigua during an interview just before the election. Rivera says it was his administration that installed the bench and improved the intersection; he also says a top priority for his second term is to take control of the city’s schools from the state. (Eagle-Tribune)

Kasey Suffredini, cochair of the Freedom for All Massachusetts campaign, said it’s time for the Bay State to step up on the issue of transgender discrimination. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Ups and downs: General Electric, heralded as the master of the 21st century “internet of things” when it relocated its headquarters to Boston, has been the “Dog of the Dow,” the worst performing stock on blue-chip index of top companies. (Boston Globe)

A study by the UMass Donahue Institute says about 37 percent of the housing stock on the Cape is made up of second homes, shrinking available housing for the year-round workforce and driving up house prices as the peninsula gets built out. (Cape Cod Times)

The Berkshire Museum art sale was put on hold after Attorney General Maura Healey’s office won a stay to make an appeal. (Berkshire Eagle)

A North Carolina woman who has written a book about the trial of Lizzie Borden has paid more than $16,000 at auction for rare documents signed by the accused ax murderer and then donated the papers to the Fall River Historical Society. (Herald News)

EDUCATION

A new report says New Hampshire has the highest in-state tuition for four-year public colleges in the country. (Eagle-Tribune)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

More than 100 states and cities have sued drug manufacturers for failing to alert their customers to the dangers of the opioids they were peddling. (Governing)

TRANSPORTATION

Ari Ofsevit and James Aloisi of TransitMatters write an open letter to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo telling her why making improvements to service between Providence and Boston would be better than launching express trains. (CommonWealth)

After 11 months of all-electronic tolling, unpaid tolls total $32 million. (CommonWealth)

Competing plans for the Fairmount commuter rail line pit the interests of city residents against those in the suburbs. (Boston Globe)

Uber officials have finalized a deal to sell a stake of the ride-hailing company to a Japanese bank, paving the way for governance changes and a public offering in 2019. (New York Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A pilot monitoring program that outfits commercial fishing boats with cameras to record their catches is paying off for the industry by giving researchers more accurate data to determine fishing populations. (Cape Cod Times)

Environmental officials and advocates are declaring the rebound in the population of wild turkeys, which had disappeared in the state for more than a century because of hunting and development, a conservation success story. (Wicked Local)

Environmental advocate Andrew Savitz said a new report raises doubts about a natural gas crisis in New England. (CommonWealth)

CASINOS

Members of the Mashpee Wampanoag were called to a closed meeting Sunday afternoon to discuss the tribe’s mounting $425 million debt to a Malaysian company backing the planned casino. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A second state trooper is filing a federal lawsuit alleging she was forced by supervisors to alter the arrest report on a woman who is the daughter of a Worcester County district court judge. (Boston Globe) The lawyer representing the two troopers who have sued says he’ll go “right up the chain” to uncover what happened, including deposing the state Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett. (Boston Herald)

President Trump is installing young conservative judges at a record pace and filling appeals court seats Republican senators kept vacant during former President Barack Obama’s last two years. (New York Times)

Columnist Tom Farragher tells the tale of a juror who feels guilty about voting to convict a defendant he thinks may not be guilty. (Boston Globe)

A Lowell Sun editorial lauds law enforcement officials for their bust of a major cocaine and fentanyl drug ring working out of a luxury apartment complex in Tewksbury.

MEDIA

Breitbart runs a very strange story suggesting that the woman who alleges Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 was somehow coerced into talking by reporters from the Washington Post. But the story — and the facts — contradict that notion. Breitbart quotes the mother of the woman as saying the Post approached her daughter, which the Post acknowledged in its story. Meanwhile, Moore is calling the Post story “fake news” and vowing to file a lawsuit against the newspaper. (Associated Press)