Week after week, year after year, people keep killing people with guns. Still, Sunday's carnage in Las Vegas is simply hard to comprehend: at least 59 dead, more than 500 injured, shot by one person.
The shootings are unpredictable. But the reaction to them, by people who could do something about them, is completely predictable. They will do nothing.
In a New York Times op-ed on Monday, former Long Island Congressman Steve Israel recalled some of the most well-known mass shootings: Columbine, Herkimer, Tucson, Santa Monica, Hialeah, Terrell, Alturas, Killeen, Isla Vista, Marysville, Chapel Hill, Tyrone, Waco, Charleston, Chattanooga, Lafayette, Roanoke, Roseburg, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, Birmingham, Fort Hood, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Washington Navy Yard, Alexandria, Newtown....
After every tragedy, the media publish profiles of the victims and we weep. "Everyone loved him," the Times quoted a woman about her nephew. "The kind of person who brings light wherever she is," a school superintendent said of a young teacher. "A kind spirit... a kind, compassionate, genuine person," a hospital spokesperson said about a nurse.
“To lose someone with a heart like yours,” read a post on a victim's Facebook page. “Just doesn’t make sense.”
A husband who died shielding his wife from the bullets, a woman expecting a new grandchild, a single mother of four: on and on the painful stories run, of people who had so much to give, who were simply having fun, enjoying music, enjoying being together with others who love music.
We know that, and we know what we need to do. But nothing will happen.
We knew what we needed to do after Tucson, after Aurora, after Orlando.... But nothing happened.
We knew what we needed to do when we saw the pictures of the children murdered in Newtown. Little children. Six-year-olds. Six-year-olds.
But nothing happened.
After every tragedy like this, the media share the stories. Elected officials declare their shock and their sorrow. The president gives a speech about mourning and praying, and he hugs the victims.
And then nothing happens.
On Monday, President Trump called the shooting "an act of pure evil," ordered flags flown at half-staff, and asked God to bless the people who had lost their lives.
"In moments of tragedy and horror," he said, "America comes together as one. And it always has." He and his wife Melania were praying "for the entire nation to find unity and peace," he said. They were praying, he said, "for the day when evil is banished and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear."
The president himself, of course, could do something to help banish the evil of mass shootings. He could bring the country together to help reduce gun violence of all kinds. So could Congress.
But we know what will happen. There'll be no legislation involving background checks or regulating the kinds of guns companies can make and people can buy and sell. Congress will still refuse to fund research into the causes and possible prevention of gun violence.
There's a lot we don't know right now about Stephen Paddock and his motive for doing what he did. But we know plenty. We know he had more than 20 guns in his hotel room and more than a dozen in his home outside of Las Vegas. We know that the guns – which he fired rapidly and repeatedly – killed at least 59 people and injured hundreds of others. We know that the guns themselves were perfectly legal. It was legal to make them, legal to sell them, legal to buy them.
We know enough to enact sensible gun control.
But we won't. We didn't act after Aurora and Tucson and Orlando. We didn't act after Newtown.
And we won't act now. That in itself is evil.