The numbing down of America

Another day, another mass shooting.

That’s not just a glib expression; it’s a fact. The slaughter of at least 14 people at a social service center for the developmentally disabled in California Wednesday is the 355th mass shooting so far this year. It happened on day 342.

The day after Robert Lewis Dear appeared in court to answer charges he walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and killed three people and wounded at least nine, a married couple in San Bernardino, California, showed up at a party at the husband’s office and began mowing down co-workers, bystanders, and innocent victims for unknown reasons.

Mass shootings are defined two ways: The FBI defines it as three or more people being killed in a spree shooting or a setting while the website Mass Shooting Tracker, which is where the numbers come from, more liberally describes it as a shooting where four or more people are injured, not necessarily killed.

Under either definition, Americans are being swamped with the unspeakable on a near-daily basis and it’s becoming numbing. There have now been at least 462 people killed and more than 1,300 wounded in mass shootings since January 1.

In between Dear’s assault in Colorado the day after Thanksgiving and the San Bernardino tragedy on Wednesday, there were two more mass shootings, one in Sacramento that killed two and wounded two and one in Kankakee, Illinois, that resulted in no deaths but five wounded. And lost in the news Wednesday was another shooting in Savannah, Georgia, where one person was killed and three wounded. Had enough?

January 8. January 23. May 24. June 27. July 4. Thanksgiving. Do those dates sound familiar, outside of the holidays? It’s doubtful they ring a bell with most people. Those are the dates this year when a mass shooting occurred in Massachusetts. They happened respectively in Boston, Boston, Brockton, Taunton, Pittsfield, and Boston. But with the onslaught of so many shootings, we’re onto the next one before smoke clears at the last one.

Social media is swamped with expressions of remorse and sadness in the aftermath of such events but, again, the horror fades and the outrage lessens with the passing of time. And it’s onto the next shooting.

Each shooting that catches the nation’s eye ends in political debate, whether it’s motive, such as Dear’s rampage in Colorado, or whether to ramp up efforts for gun control, as in the wake of Sandy Hook three years ago this month. Since 20 children and teachers were killed by Adam Lanza at the Connecticut elementary school, there have been 1,044 mass shootings resulting in the deaths of more than 1,300 people and nearly 3,800 injured. That’s .96 shootings a day. And we’re picking up steam.

Predictably, the Democratic presidential candidates are calling for gun reform, a tough act to pass in Congress and they know it. The Republican candidates largely are sending their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims, which has been the focus of much derision. Under the headline “God isn’t fixing this,” the New York Daily News says more than faith is needed to address the problem.

Some are taking action. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has been out front using his wealth and fame to reduce gun violence and Microsoft founder Bill Gates has pledged $1 million to start a system for background checks.

But all this is taking place before we can catch our breath and in the absence of answers. There’s no one common thread, there’s no singular motive. And many still haven’t digested the attacks in Paris and Mali. The overwhelming sense of sadness and loss at the constant barrage of tragedy was perhaps best summed up on a simple Facebook post.

“Could the world not be terrible for like, 5 minutes?”

JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

Sen. Anne Gobi tells a legislative committee that a decision to close the State Police barracks in Brookfield is another example of the “let-stick-it-to-central-Massachusetts” attitude. (Telegram & Gazette)

A Boston Herald editorial thinks — and fervently hopes — voters will take a dim view of a so-called “millionaire’s tax” that would raise levies on incomes of $1 million a year or more if it makes it to the state ballot.

The Berkshire Eagle argues that the Bay State is going to run into the same problems with recreational marijuana as it did with medical marijuana if lawmakers fail to come up with legislation to address likely legalization via a 2016 ballot initiative.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Taxes are going up in Peabody and the town is also dipping into its reserves to make ends meet. (Salem News) An Eagle-Tribune editorial says it’s ridiculous that municipalities can’t get by on property tax revenue growth of 4.1 percent.

The private developer of a sports facility at Essex Technical High School agrees to make an in-lieu-of-taxes payment to the town of Middleton. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The US House overwhelmingly passes an education reform bill that scales back the federal government’s role. (Time)

Governing examines the federal transportation funding bill and what it means for states and cities.

ELECTIONS

Veronica Turner of SEIU1199, which represents 52,000 health care workers in the state, says residents can combat inequality via the ballot next fall by voting for a referendum question that would rein in high-cost health care providers and by supporting legislators to vow to bring the state a $15 minimum wage. (CommonWealth)

Outlandish though his many claims may be, Donald Trump is being subjected to an unfair double-standard by the media, says Republican strategist Eric Fehrnstrom. (Boston Globe)

Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group explores the dynamics of the Massachusetts Republican primary. (WBUR)

Activists submitted signatures for 11 ballot questions, while Secretary of State William Galvin came up short on his bid to put a public records question on the ballot. (Masslive)

The four candidates for Quincy mayor spent a record total of nearly $1 million for the city’s first four-year term with the two finalists, incumbent Mayor Thomas Koch and former mayor William Phelan, spending a combined $850,000. (Patriot Ledger)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Farah Stockman puts a spotlight on the restrictive zoning policies that keep modest-priced housing — and more racial diversity — from liberal, leafy suburbs whose denizens tend to say all the right things about such issues. (Boston Globe)

Bringing a $15 minimum wage to individual cities and towns in Massachusetts would be no easy feat. (Boston Globe)

The Globe looks at the lack of racial diversity and women in corporate boardrooms in the state. CommonWealth had an extensive look at these same issues two years ago.

Another day, another luxury housing project unveiled for Boston’s seaport (this one posh rentals). (Boston Herald)

Massachusetts Broadband Institute and Wired West, which aims to provide broadband Internet service to Western Massachusetts tussle over the terms of the operating agreement over what constitutes provision of service to every home and business in the region. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Chronicle of Philanthropy takes Fidelity Charitable to task for hiding the chief executive’s salary by having the parent company pay her rather than the non-profit, shielding her compensation from public disclosure.

EDUCATION

Suffolk University president Margaret McKenna says her political views (which lean liberal) have nothing to do with a parting of the ways between the university and the right-leaning Beacon Hill Institute think tank, which has been based at Suffolk since 1991. (Boston Globe) David Tuerck, the institute’s director, says Suffolk officials have tried to stifle his commentary and vetoed his effort to commission a study on Obamacare — though these were all things that he said predated McKenna’s arrival this year in the president’s post. (Boston Herald)

Pioneer Institute executive director Jim Stergios says Massachusetts should move to adopt less overall testing in its schools — but broaden assessments to include more subjects than the current outsized focus on math and English.

Heather Campion resigned as chief executive of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation after a rocky tenure that saw a huge exodus of veteran staff members.

The House on Wednesday passed a new education billEvery Student Succeeds Act — that is intended to replace No Child Left Behind and reduce the federal government’s involvement in local education. (U.S. News & World Report)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Health Policy Commission gives a $1 million grant to Lowell General Hospital for work to cut down on hospital readmissions.(The Sun)

TRANSPORTATION

Gov. Charlie Baker and MBTA officials say the system is in much better shape, after $85 million in upgrades, to withstand the coming winter without the sort of crippling disruptions seen last winter. (Boston Herald)

The state needs to spend another $500 million a year to address the backlog of road and bridge repair that is needed. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Here’s another take on the Blue Hills deer hunt. (WBUR)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it will pay for at-sea monitors on fishing vessels in 2016. (Gloucester Times)

Scientists will use centuries-old logbooks from whaling ships stored at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, including about 300 from ships that sailed near the Arctic, to analyze weather patterns and determine if the earth is warming. (Standard-Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The defense calls a psychiatrist at the murder trial of Philip Chism in a bid to buttress defense claims of mental illness. (Salem News)

The former director of the Stoughton Housing Authority, charged with stealing prescription drugs from an elderly resident, pled guilty to larceny and breaking and entering. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson takes another run at the father of Baby Bella and the Boston-area media that she says enabled him.

The once-imperiled San Francisco Chronicle is now profitable and growing its digital business. (Poynter)