The Observer-Reporter building in Washington

Like no other nation on Earth, the United States is a shooting gallery.

No one should have any confidence any longer that they’ll be safe from a gunman bent on mass killings if they go the mall, a hardware store, a concert, a nightclub, their workplace or pretty much anywhere.

The nearly two dozen folks who were murdered last weekend at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, probably thought they were safe, but should they really have thought so? The same goes for the nine people killed by a gunman mere hours later in a popular nightlife area of Dayton, Ohio. Who can feel safe in a nation with a gun culture such as ours, and lawmakers who seem to be afraid to take even modest, common-sense steps to at least try to rein in the terror?

The shooting in Dayton was especially gut-wrenching for people in our area. One of the victims was Nicholas Cumer, a 25-year-old Wash High graduate who was in graduate school at St. Francis University in Loretto and in Dayton for an internship. We talked to people who knew Cumer, and the picture quickly emerged of a young man who was beloved by everyone. His death was not just a loss to his friends and family, but to anyone who might have come into his orbit.

Now we are left, until the next mass shooting – which will probably occur any day now – with all of the talk about what can be done to prevent more of these sickening incidents.

Those who resist any significant effort to enact reasonable gun-control measures usually claim that it’s really a mental health issue. And to some degree, they’re right. We have a woefully inadequate system in this country for caring for people with mental health problems.

But improving our mental health system, and greatly improving access to care, is not the only answer. Some people are clinically sane but have such hatred for other groups of people, or people in general, that their ideology drives them to mass murder.

And better controls over weaponry, some of it that only should be in the hands of the military and police, is a critical part of responding to this epidemic of death. Would it prevent every mass killing? No. Most of them? Maybe not. But some, at least? Very likely, it would. And preventing even one would be a victory.

We’re not talking about armed squads of troops coming to people’s houses and rounding up weapons. But there are measures far less restrictive that could at least make it harder for those with mass murder on their minds to carry out their killing sprees.

One is closing the so-called gun show loophole, which in some places allows people to buy weaponry without so much as a cursory background check. It’s like walking into the 7-Eleven and getting a candy bar. There are at least some substantive discussions now about tightening the rules on gun purchases. The sooner, the better.

The other “easy” fix is to ban the purchase or possession of high-capacity magazines. These magazines, which allow someone with a rifle to fire off dozens of rounds as quickly as they can pull the trigger, without reloading, have no other purpose but to allow one human to kill as many other humans as possible in as short a time as possible.

There will be a lot of talk in the coming days about gun control and mental health and other issues surrounding our epidemic of mass murder, but the time for talk is over. Each and every one of us should be demanding action, before we are the next person looking down the barrel of a gun.

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