An ATF agent poses with homemade semiautomatic rifles. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Here we go again. Another shooting rampage. Another from-out-of-nowhere attack on the public. Another tale of carnage, bloodshed and indiscriminate killing.

This time it's a rural community in California. Last week it was a Baptist church in Texas. Before that, a country music concert in Las Vegas.

Three different states, same toxic ingredients — a crazed man and a gun.

And the reaction, sad to say, is also the same: “It could have been worse.” So let’s give thanks to:

●The quick-thinking officials at an elementary school in Northern California who, hearing gunfire, locked down the premises, preventing gunman Kevin J. Neal from getting inside the building. Neal killed five people, but none at the school.

● The heroic neighbor who grabbed his rifle, fired back and wounded the Texas shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people, including an unborn child.

● The security guard at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino who first reported shots and warned two people in the hotel of the danger inside the suite from which bullets fired by Stephen Paddock rained down on concertgoers, killing 58 and wounding more than 500.

● And the first responders: the California law-enforcement officers who tracked and fatally shot Neal on Tuesday; the Texas police who pursued and found Kelley dead in his car; the cops in Las Vegas who descended on Paddock’s hotel suite.

Now let’s return to our customary hand-wringing.

Oh dear, oh dear, we ask the skies above: How can we make all this bad stuff go away?

What, pray tell, can we do about these assailants who leave bloody trails in their wake? Do we, as President Trump, chalk up the murders to a "mental health problem" — that is, if the shooter isn't someone of a darker hue named Mohammed?

Motives, state of mind, family conditions? We plumb those questions, world without end.

But we dance around the one feature shared by these tragedies: guns.

Sure, we notice the destructive force of a gun when the deaths occur. Mass shootings have a way of concentrating the mind.

Spread out the bodies over a period of days and weeks, however, and the horror of guns almost goes unnoticed.

We reached 100 mostly gun-related homicides the other day in our nation's capital. That's more deaths than those that occurred in the California, Texas and Nevada shootings combined.

The District’s homicide toll is down 14 percent from the same time last year. Nothing to cheer about; plenty to mourn. A blasé city, however, did neither.


On my desk is an Oct. 26 D.C. police department news release about the arrests of Messan Djlbom, 20, of Silver Spring, Jason White, 31, of Northwest Washington, and Lonnell Hart, 44, no fixed address. The three were charged in connection with six armed robberies of establishments on Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania avenues NW since August. Two handguns were recovered.


From Monday, Oct. 30, through Monday, Nov. 6, D.C. detectives and officers recovered 38 firearms, ranging from handguns to shotguns.

That hardly exhausted the supply.

From Nov. 6 to 13, D.C. authorities recovered an additional 24 firearms, and in all of the city’s four quadrants.

But it’s not just the District of Columbia.

America is flooded with firearms. One estimate by the Congressional Research Service puts the figure at more than 300 million.

Here's an America First: We have more guns per capita than any other nation in the world. Yay. Take a bow.

Every day, 46 children and teens in our country are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But you probably heard all that.

You also may have heard that guns are used to save lives; that women use guns to stave off sexual abuse; that criminals don’t want to mess with an armed victim.

Well and good.

But Devin Kelley and Kevin Neal shouldn’t have gotten their hands on one. There was no good reason for Stephen Paddock to be toting enough firepower to take on Boko Haram. And young men in our communities shouldn’t be allowed to rob, shoot or terrorize their neighbors at gunpoint.

But we know all that, too.

We come up short when it comes to doing something about it. The to-do list is there. What’s lacking is the will on Capitol Hill.

The mentally ill shouldn't be allowed to buy guns. Private sales of guns and buying them at gun shows must be subject to background checks. We don't need assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. There should be a firm waiting period before guns can be bought legally. And, yes, we ought to have a federal database to track gun sales.

Until action is taken, gird yourselves for more rampages, and solemn utterances of “our thoughts and prayers are with” — pick a name.

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