The massacre this time

At least President Barack Obama was willing, this time, to suggest that we "come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

That's a welcome thought — more than what's usually said by politicians — but there has been virtually no leadership in this realm of public safety for a long time. The gun lobby won, over and over again, and it enjoys a compliant Congress and sympathetic Supreme Court.

"We don't seem to want to make a priority of keeping guns away from dangerous people," says Daniel Webster, the expert on gun violence at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

From his office at the Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, Webster plays a part in our national ritual now; reporters call him for comments after just about every mass murder with guns.

After this year's Aurora, Colo., cinema killings, Webster noted the capacity of one of the weapons used by the gunman to shoot 70 people within minutes — an assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine.

There is no need for anyone in civilian life to own a firearm with that kind of capacity. But, says Webster, our gun laws are not about public safety.

"They are more about commerce," he says, "about making it easy for criminals, gun traffickers and sellers — not about protecting the public."

And, says Webster, there is little in our laws that demands accountability for those who own and sell guns. "You can buy guns and bullets online, no questions asked. And if we think that's logical and reasonable, then ..."

Then we shouldn't be so shocked.

And we should do something about it.

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