Tennessee will begin 2020 on Wednesday with a new law allowing residents to qualify for a state-issued "concealed carry" handgun permit by watching a 90-minute online video training.
The question many state residents will rightly ask is if such a law will precipitate more incidents like Sunday's shooting at a Texas Church of Christ or help prevent them.
In the church confrontation, a gunman opened fire, killing one person and seriously injuring another, but was shot and killed by a volunteer security officer on duty at the time.
A 2017 Texas law allows armed security guards in churches, and a 2019 law allows licensed handgun owners to bring guns into churches unless the churches oppose them doing so. The latter law was passed in response to the 2017 Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting that left 26 people dead.
Tennessee and Texas are two of the 48 states in which the law allows residents with concealed carry permits to go armed in churches and places of worship.
While we believe gun owners should take as much training online, in person and at ranges as is possible, most gun violence is not perpetrated by individuals who have taken time to get proper training and obtain proper documentation.
Similarly, many shootings in which handguns were used were committed by individuals using stolen guns or guns otherwise obtained illegally.
An FBI agent said the Texas shooter, Keith Thomas Kinnunen, was "relatively transient with roots to this area" and had been arrested numerous times in different municipalities.
Sadly and perhaps ominously, the shooting in the church was not the only violent incident involving a religious group over the weekend.
In a New York City suburb, a stabbing spree at a gathering of Hasidic Jews ended with five injured at a rabbi's home as adherents celebrated Hanukkah.
The state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, said it was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in the New York City area since Dec. 8.
Anti-Semitism has been on the rise in Europe for nearly a quarter of a century. As early as 2006, according to an Anti-Defamation League survey, 30% of respondents said Jews had too much power in business. A different survey by the Journal of Conflict Resolution that same year said almost no respondents in countries of the European Union regarded themselves as anti-Semitic.
Unquestionably, those attitudes have spread across the Atlantic Ocean, with 1,879 incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League. That year's violence included a gunman killing 11 congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the largest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States.
It can happen anywhere, Michael Dzik, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, said in a television interview Sunday. It's happened here, he said.
The report didn't elaborate, but he might have been referring to a bombing that demolished the small Beth Sholom synagogue in Brainerd in 1977. No one was killed in the blast, but had a scheduled service that night not have been canceled the loss of life would have been significant.
Neo-Nazi Joseph Paul Franklin was indicted for the bombing in 1984. He was executed in 2013 for killing a man at a St. Louis-area synagogue in 1977.
Tennessee's new handgun permit updates a 1996 law in which people ages 21 or older who pass a criminal background check take eight hours of training, including live-fire training. Individuals who want to receive an "enhanced" handgun carry permit, allowing them to carry a handgun open or concealed, still must take the eight hours of training.
Those who want to obtain only a concealed-only carry permit must pass a background check but can take the online video training that covers basic knowledge and skills of firearm usage and safety and concludes with a test "that confirms competency."
Our inclination is that more training is better and safer, especially for those who might provide security, but we don't see the online training component leading to a rise in errant handgun deaths. Gun control supporters said the 1996 Tennessee law in which the Department of Safety began issuing handgun carry permits would lead to a rise of gun violence, but it did not.
Nevertheless, we should all be concerned by the rise of hate, hate crimes against specific groups and overall crimes against people of faith in this country. And if they can be prevented by wider communication, more mental illness assistance and better parental guidance, that's preferable to any church shootout — whether the hero is trained online or in person.