Identifying people who may be killers

Mass shootings invariably produce calls for stricter limits on access to firearms. They fall into two basic categories:

• Some people want to ban all ownership of certain types of guns, including many that are very popular. Such restrictions have little or no chance of being enacted, in part because they would violate the Second Amendment.

• Another call is for better screening of people who want to buy guns. Some suggest certain types of mental illness should disqualify people from purchasing firearms.

But Devin Patrick Kelley, who murdered 26 people in a small church in Texas on Sunday, surely fit the profile of someone society should have considered to be dangerous.

He was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force after serving one year of confinement, beginning in 2012, for assaulting his wife and child.

Yet, it has been reported, he had a license to work as an unarmed security guard. Why would the state grant such a license to anyone with Kelley’s record?

How is it that no one with the ability to do anything about Kelley perceived him as the threat he was? Would any law now under discussion have stopped him?

We all would like to prevent tragedies such as that at the Texas church. The question we need to ask is whether any of the proposals we bandy about would do any good.

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