The latest school shootings in Florida exemplify two major concerns demonstrated by gun-violence data. First, we have a leak in the background-check system that allows plum-crazy people to get guns legally. Second, we’re failing to adequately defend gun-free zones. If you wish the lives of dead children to have any lasting meaning, do something about these problems!

Let me define my ground at the very beginning of this reflection. I am not against the right to own guns for the purpose of hunting nor, in most cases, for self-defense. There is a lot of difference, it seems to me, between owning a gun in rural areas of Texas where snakes and varmints abound than there is in the suburbs of Waco. I hunted as a teenager and enjoyed it. So don’t paint me into the corner that interprets any effort at gun control as meaning that I want the government to come get your guns.

The March 6 primary election is right around the corner with early voting beginning Tuesday. One issue fellow McLennan County voters will do well to examine carefully is fundamental honesty and integrity in government. At the most basic level, we don’t want our elected leaders putting their fingers into the public treasury — outright corruption. That goes without saying. But we should demand even more. We should want — and expect — the execution of all functions of our elected government to be consistent with the rules of the road. Citizens are expected to obey the law; so must our public officials. They should set shining examples of scrupulous adherence to the law and principles of integrity.

I had a little time to think on a recent Saturday morning as I drove across Waco to the magnificent structure known as Second Missionary Baptist Church. I had visited there previously and knew the route but this particular Saturday my mind was focused on the solemn purpose of the visit: the funeral service for a grand lady, Lovie Taylor, 91, whom I had known as a youngster many years ago.

A December 2017 Newsweek/Wall Street Journal poll asserted that more than 40 percent of Americans believe grounds exist to hold impeachment hearings for President Trump. Four resolutions have been introduced in the U.S. House calling for impeachment, while a criminal probe is underway of possible ties between his 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. It all makes for a good time to pause and consider what impeachment actually involves.

Kudos to SpaceX again for Tuesday’s successful maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket. It was launched successfully about 2:45 p.m. Central time, followed by landings of the two side boosters back at Cape Canaveral and successful injection by the second stage of SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s beloved red Tesla Roadster into solar orbit, one now reportedly extending beyond Mars. The center core booster apparently crashed into the sea near the recovery barge — the only flaw in the mission so far.

The U.S. personal savings rate fell to its lowest level in more than a decade, setting off a firestorm of speculation about the implications. For 2017, the annual savings rate was 3.4 percent, down from 4.9 percent in 2016 and worse than it’s been since 2007. Late last year, savings dipped to 2.4 percent, the lowest monthly level since fall 2005.

Just after President Trump made his disparaging remarks about limiting immigration from “s---hole” countries (a statement now confirmed by both Democrats and Republicans in the room with him at the time), I received the results of a DNA ethnicity test that revealed, much to my amazement (and utter delight), that I have ancestors from Nigeria — yes, one of Trump’s “s---hole” countries. As surprising as that result was for me, my guess is that my ethnic mix is not that unusual for someone named Burleson who is a fifth-generation Texan. On both my paternal (Burleson) and maternal (Blanchette) sides are great-great-great-grandparents — who I can identify by name — who migrated to Texas in the early 19th century. So I wasn’t surprised that my DNA test estimated that about 75 percent of my ancestors came from England, Wales and France. I have always marked “white” or “Anglo-American” on the demographic forms I’m occasionally asked to fill out.

In a meeting with two local pastors in 2016, our discussion turned to politics. Both church leaders passionately defended their decisions to vote for Donald Trump and encourage their congregations to do so as well. While they acknowledged embarrassment at his language, immorality, racist tendencies, ethnocentrism and abrasive lifestyle, for them the Republican candidate embraced basic evangelical principles the Democratic candidate did not.

The front pages and chyrons are focused on the fact that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is leaving the agency. It’s newsworthy as it comes in the midst of the Russia-Trump-campaign criminal investigation, presidential tweets critical of McCabe and reports that Trump’s first meaningful meeting with McCabe involved Trump asking for whom he voted. Did I mention McCabe is a lawyer?

There are rare times when we have what might be called an “Ah, ha” moment… a moment when clarity magnificently triumphs over what might otherwise be an “OK” slice of life. Such was my “Ah, ha” moment while absentmindedly listening to the recent Golden Globes award presentation and paying the monthly bills.

If last weekend’s shutdown of our federal government proved anything beyond all the finger-pointing left, right and center, it’s that immigration remains a festering problem for many Americans. Controversy inflamed this issue well before the administration of President Trump and even before the administration of Barack Obama. And because this issue continues to percolate, Republican lawmakers must be empowered to develop a real solution to protect our residents, especially given that some today live among illegal immigrant criminals.

The other day I resumed my volunteer work at Waco High School, helping the school’s iconic mock trial program run by beloved career educator Rick Lowe. Back in the summer of 2016, upon leaving Baylor University, I sat down with then-Superintendent Bonny Cain and volunteered to pitch in and try to help the district. She placed me at Waco High School.

Sen. John McCain’s Jan. 18 column was appalling and unbefitting someone of his stature, given that he relies wholly on his narrow, hate-filled, “never-Trump” view of the world rather than on truth. And the truth is that, unless he and the rest of Congress plan to take up a measure to repeal the First Amendment, the press is not now, nor has it ever been, in danger from anyone in this country, least of all this president.

First, I thank Congressman Bill Flores for his Dec. 30 column detailing and defending how the recently passed tax-reform law “helps you.” His expertise as a CPA and a businessman is not in question. I appreciate the column’s intent, which was to provide real information to constituents in a public forum that allows us to read and to respond. That has not been the case in the telephone town halls or in his office policy to delete most critical comments to posts on his Facebook page about the tax plan. In the Waco Trib, then, we can have a dialogue.

Longtime civic leader and Trib contributor Wilton Lanning expressed shock upon opening his Tuesday Trib and laying eyes on a vintage photograph of Conery and Henrietta Miller, parents of Pearl Harbor war hero Doris Miller, on their farm in 1942. “I’m still shook,” he told us, recalling his own boyhood encounter with Conery Miller. “I live right on the bluff on Lake Shore Drive and, when the sun sets, I’m looking out at where that actually happened.” Tuesday’s Trib story focused on release of “Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement,” in which historians T. Michael Parrish and Thomas Cutrer argue for Miller’s relevance in ending decades of segregation. By request, we here publish Lanning’s own May 24, 2009, column on his encounter with the Miller family.

Trusting the bomb cyclone of winter weather headed for the East Coast to protect both filers and filing, the civil suit filed in D.C. federal court this week by Paul Manafort’s lawyers skates on thin legal ice. Manafort — the indicted former Trump campaign chair — wants Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Department of Justice enjoined from further pursuing the criminal charges pending against him for money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent.

In spite of our last piece garnering grinchish responses like “pure garbage, same as the people who wright [sic] this trash,” we were in a holiday mood, perhaps even the Christmas spirit. Over a festive lunch at the Baylor Club, we pondered: Is there a gift that could make both Sleuthin’ Bobby Mueller and Tweetin’ Donny Trump happy? That would put a wrap on the national haunting by the Ghost of Election Past?

The U.S. economy has been performing well, setting the stage for future growth. Much of the slack in the labor market has been eliminated. Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 261,000 in October and the unemployment rate is down to 4.1 percent. The number of unemployed persons was 6.5 million, down 1.1 million since January. About 1.6 million of the unemployed had been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

The clock is ticking on a two-million-job issue: finding a permanent solution to replace Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The DACA program allows individuals, often called “Dreamers,” who entered the United States as children to remain here for school or work. Nearly 800,000 individuals across our country are enrolled in this program. Approximately 124,300 of them live in Texas.

As I drove through my Waco neighborhood on the way to work on Nov. 9 a year ago, the day after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States of America, I waved to José (not his real name). José, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was raking leaves in the yard of one of my neighbors. In my neighbors’ yard were two “Make America Great Again” signs posted in front of their flag pole flying the Stars and Stripes.

I was recently asked by the House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness to offer a perspective on some of the issues affecting Texas’ future performance. The committee’s purpose in the hearing was to address “principles that . . . should guide the state’s pursuit of long-term economic growth.” I’m pleased members of the Texas Legislature are thinking in these terms, as it’s essential to our prosperity.

Once again, in a column published here, a political pundit predicted something about “evangelicals” that treats all of us as political conservatives. According to Philip Bump [“Religion, politics awkward mix,” Nov. 12] “evangelicals” will rally to support arch-conservative Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in spite of accusations of sexual misconduct.

There is a lot we don’t know about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. Most importantly, we don’t know who will be implicated and charged beyond the three men already indicted (Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopolous). We don’t know how broad the investigation has become. And we certainly don’t know if President Trump will be implicated at all.

If Saudi Arabia didn’t already have enough worries in a fast-changing Middle East, yet another crisis has hit home for the once-stable desert kingdom: the sweeping arrests of 11 princes and former ministers. The move ordered by King Salman and carried out by his impulsive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known increasingly as “MBS,” could well mark the beginning of the end for this increasingly uncertain U.S. ally.

About nine of 10 new jobs over the next decade will be in services-producing industries, many of them in health care. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released projections for growth in jobs through 2026. It estimates that U.S. employment will increase by 11.5 million over the 2016-26 decade, somewhat faster than the prior 10 years, which were marred by the Great Recession.

Halloween. Mere thought of the word brings a wistful smile to my lips as I remember a small-town childhood in dusty West Texas filled with memories of witches, ghosts and goblins running in werewolf packs and joyfully demanding tribute at every door. I don’t remember a single home with its porch light off. Back then every inhabitant in town and his or her porch light burned to join in this celebration of childhood.

As professional-grade liberal elitist snowflakes, it boils our blood to see so much ink spilled over how the left must learn to persuade Trump voters. Given that millions more voted for HRC than 45, we thought our thousands of conservative readers would be more interested in some intellectual jiu-jitsu techniques for bringing liberals to their knees. Just imagine a family holiday dinner where your typically-Trump-bashing third cousin instead begs forgiveness for the error of her ways and bids adieu by wishing you a Merry Christmas!

By all standard definitions, the U.S. economy is at “full employment,” which loosely means that everyone who really wants a job has one. The unemployment rate declined to 4.2 percent in September and the number of unemployed persons declined by 331,000. At last count (August), there were more than 6 million job openings across the United States, up more than 590,000 from a year prior and the highest ever recorded.

Garrison Keillor, the folksy humorist one either loves or hates, has a knack for getting under folks’ skin. That’s his thing. Last month one of those people who got annoyed at Mr. Keillor was Bill McBride, who wrote a letter to the editor which was both funny and direct, punching back at Keillor’s barbs about Texas politics. It was interesting to me, as I have lived both places and loved them both. They are different (hot and cold, even), but both are remarkable, beautiful parts of this country — a nation that is stronger for its size and diversity from one end to the other.

Since his very first election in the tea-party tidal wave of 2010, McLennan County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry has consistently impressed us as a bold leader and consensus builder. Rather than ducking problems or applying bumper-sticker slogans to complicated challenges facing the county and constituents, he routinely has rolled up his sleeves, sounded out his fellow commissioners and constituents for input and offered practical and thoughtful solutions. We strongly recommend Ben Perry be re-elected to a third term on the county commissioners court.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.