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Editorial: We're on our own when it comes to gun violence

It’s hard not to despair over the country’s inability to deal with gun violence, especially when its victims are students, in school where they belong and where, by all rights, they should be safe.

They’re not. It has been proved over and over again, from Columbine, Colo., to Sandy Hook, Conn., and now, to Parkland, Fla. The tally from those massacres and others in between, is worse than shocking: It’s numbing. Americans want to do something, but nothing happens.

Amid the swirl of influences – from politics to the Second Amendment to a pervasive feeling of helplessness – Washington takes no action to stem the tides of blood spilled in schools and churches, and even at Christmas parties.

And, regrettably, there is little reason to believe the 17 students massacred on Wednesday will make any difference to politicians who, like a deer in headlights, are paralyzed into inaction. What we know – it’s become a given – is that the countdown to the next massacre has already begun. It’s coming. That’s where Americans should devote most of their attention.

Consider: The word was out about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who planned and, on Wednesday, methodically executed a diabolical plan to murder students at the school from which he had been expelled. The FBI had been informed about his inclinations in January. It failed to respond – a tragic lapse that requires its own investigation.

Dylann Roof was clear about his racism before June 2015, when he opened fire in a South Carolina church, where African-American members were holding a Bible study. He murdered nine people.

Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 and injured 20 in a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last year. He had been legally prohibited from buying or possessing firearms and ammunition after a court-martial conviction for domestic violence. The Air Force neglected to report the conviction to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database.

The lessons should be clear: In the face of Washington’s indifference, Americans have to take it upon themselves to report aberrant behavior to authorities – and in more than one agency, given the FBI’s failures in the latest killings.

Authorities, for their, part need to better ensure that people like Cruz – he publicly declared that he wanted to be a “professional school shooter – don’t slip through the cracks. Police agencies are already overwhelmed and it would be unrealistic to expect them to prevent every mass shooting. But, surely, they can do better than this.

Buffalo knows what can happen. Only through a combination of civilian and police response did this area not suffer its own massacre last year.

Travis Green was armed with the mass murderer’s weapon of choice – the AR-15 – and had already fired 20 shots into a Dollar General store in Cheektowaga. With two rifles and more than 850 rounds of ammunition, he was plainly aiming to inflict “significant harm,” as police said.

He wasn’t able to when two men from a nearby store combined to take him down with a car, then chased him into the arms of police.

No one was shot that day, but Buffalo was on the slope to becoming the next place of carnage. It was already underway. Dozens of people could have died. On another day, they still could.

Unless and until government gets serious about what is clearly a public crisis, it will be up to citizens and police to do the best they can to identify and stop people such as Cruz, Roof, Kelley and Green. It’s not enough, but it’s all we have.

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