I wish we could eradicate racism and the delusion of white supremacy, but I don’t know how. Is there a difference between setting the church on fire in 1822 and spraying the pews with gunfire nearly two centuries later? The context is vastly altered, of course — today, a multiracial, multicultural city is united in grief. Yet the racist impulse, however diminished, endures.
I wish we could better address issues of mental health, too. Perhaps it should be easier for concerned family members to compel a troubled individual to seek help. But we are not going back to the practice of warehousing large numbers of people in hellish institutions.
What we can do, if we have the will, is make it harder for those who want to kill innocents to obtain firearms. After 20 young children and six adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Congress took up two modest pieces of legislation: a ban on military-style assault weapons, which no hunter needs; and a requirement for universal background checks before buying guns. Both had overwhelming public support. Neither became law.