The message here should be clear, said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, a group opposed to gun violence. "You put a military level of firepower in the hands of civilians, and this is the natural result," she said. "The lesson that other countries have learned is that you have to restrict access to these instruments that allow people to inflict so much injury and death so quickly."
Specifically, Rand said that "high-capacity magazines, whether they're in a pistol or an assault rifle, are the common thread in every major mass shooting in the U.S. going back to the early '80s."
But many politicians are responding to the shooting with pieties rather than policy proposals.
According to Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, there isn't anything wrong with showing sympathy, but there has to be more. "You have to question how genuine that sympathy is if it's not accompanied by talk about solutions to the problem."
Opponents of gun control have a powerful rhetorical argument in their arsenal. "The gun lobby is very effective at saying that 'Now is not the time to exploit these events for political purposes,'" Rand said. "Their goal is to delay so that the pressure comes off of policy makers, the immediacy fades and everyone turns their attention to something else."
Certainly exploiting unusually shocking or tragic events in order to craft public policy is unwise.
As The Onion so adeptly put it, there is nothing unusual about mass shootings in America: we even have a grammatical structure for them: a school shooting, a church shooting, a mall shooting.