Tuesday morning news: December 31, 2019

Praise for Texas gun laws in wake of church shooting » Texas officials are praising the state’s gun laws in the wake of a church shooting on Sunday that could have been a lot worse. 

Jack Wilson is a former deputy for Hood County and a firearms instructor. He also heads the security team at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement.

Wilson fired the single shot that killed a gunman and thwarted a would-be mass shooting during the Sunday morning service.

WILSON: I don’t consider myself a hero at all. I did what I was trained to do.

Before Wilson fired his weapon, the gunman shot two members of the congregation. Both died.

Investigators still haven’t identified the gunman. But FBI Special Agent Matthew DeSarno said they are interviewing people who knew him to figure out what prompted the attack.

DESARNO: The shooter has had multiple contacts with law enforcement in the past, but he was not on any kind of a watch list.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton visited the church just west of Fort Worth on Sunday night. He praised the congregation for being organized and ready to meet any threat.

PAXTON: We can’t prevent every incident. We can’t prevent mental illness from occurring, and we can’t prevent every crazy person from pulling a gun. But we can be prepared, like this church was.

The Texas Legislature passed a law earlier this year that allows licensed handgun owners to carry guns in church, unless the church expressly forbids it. 

Hate crimes charges in Hanukkah stabbing case »  Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in New York have filed hate crimes charges against the man accused of attacking a gathering of Orthodox Jews on Saturday.

Grafton E. Thomas already faces five counts of attempted murder for the knife attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, just north of New York City.

Attorney Michael Sussman represents Thomas. He says his client is mentally ill but not anti-Semitic.

SUSSMAN: I spent about 35 minutes speaking with Grafton Thomas this morning. And while obviously I can’t disclose the detail of that conversation, I can tell you that I heard nothing in that conversation that confirmed in any way, shape, or manner that he’s a domestic terrorist.

Prosecutors added the hate crimes charges after finding handwritten journals containing references to Jews and anti-Semitism in Thomas’s home. His phone’s web browser included repeated searches for the phrases “Why did Hitler hate the Jews” and “German Jewish Temples near me.”

China sentences pastor to nine years in prison » Chinese officials announced Monday that a prominent pastor will spend the next nine years in prison.

A court in Chengdu convicted and sentenced pastor Wang Yi of illegal business operations after a secret trial last week. Before his arrest, Wang led Early Rain Covenant Church. It was one of the most influential and well-known house churches in the country.

Security forces arrested more than 100 leaders and members of the unregistered church in December 2018. The crackdown on Early Rain is part of a wider campaign by the Communist Party to limit all religious activity in the country.

Iraq condemns U.S. airstrikes, militia vows retaliation » The Iraqi government has condemned U.S. airstrikes on Sunday against a militia backed by Iran. The official statement called the attack a “flagrant violation” of the country’s sovereignty.

The Pentagon said it launched the airstrikes in retaliation for a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base last week. An American contractor died in that attack.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the airstrikes were designed to send a message to the militia’s backers.

POMPEO: We continue to demand that the Islamic Republic of Iran act in a way that’s consistent with what I laid out back in May of 2018 for what it is that we expect Iran to do so that it can rejoin the community of nations. 

The strikes killed at least 25 Hezbollah Brigades fighters and wounded dozens of others.

The Iraqi government said it would “review its relationship” with U.S.-led forces in the country following the attack.

Congressman John Lewis announces cancer diagnosis » Congressman John Lewis of Georgia will soon begin treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer. The long-time civil rights leader announced the diagnosis in a statement saying he’d never faced a fight like this before.

At 79, Lewis is the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists once led by Martin Luther King, Jr. He was first elected to Congress in 1986.

He frequently compared current political battles to the fight for civil rights: 

LEWIS: We have come a distance. We’ve made progress. But we’re not there yet. There are forces that want to take us back to another place. We don’t want to go back. We want to go forward.

Lewis says he has a fighting chance of beating the cancer, adding: “I have been in some kind of fight—for freedom, equality, basic human rights—for nearly my entire life.”

He intends to stay in office during his treatment, although he acknowledged he might miss a few votes in the coming weeks.

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) A Community member walks near a rabbi’s residence in Monsey, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing Saturday night during a Hanukkah celebration. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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