A makeshift memorial in front of Robb Elementary School in...

A makeshift memorial in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/CHANDAN KHANNA

The latest school massacre, in the working-class majority-Latino city of Uvalde, Texas, prompts a new and rightly outraged chorus of public pleas for more sensible gun restrictions. The nauseating thoughts-and-prayers statements meant to dull the effect of that outcry mean nothing.

An extended plague of murderous attacks on the innocent becomes more urgent by the day. Each new entry on the growing list of atrocities suggests different federal and state responses. Counterintuitive as it sounds, our yearslong gun-violence challenge might be best broken down and dealt with piecemeal, one partial legal remedy and one small step at a time. 

The emerging profile of 18-year-old gunman Salvador Roland Ramos reveals the kind of textbook red flags and warning signs that haunted past cases.

Ramos reportedly was bullied over a speech impediment. One friend said he cut his own face with knives for fun. Recently, he lashed out violently against peers and strangers, according to alienated friends and relatives. Using weapons purchased this month, days after his birthday, authorities said, he started the killing spree by shooting and critically wounding his grandmother before driving to Robb Elementary School and the fourth-grade classroom he turned into a death chamber.

In Texas, he was old enough to purchase his weapons legally. He was a citizen with no criminal record or gang affiliation or clear political or religious indoctrination.

Somebody who was deranged easily got hold of guns. Again.

On Wednesday, in the same grim news cycle, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was moving to put gun-control bills on the calendar for possible action. Both have already been approved in the House.

One calls for universal background checks for all commercial gun sales. The other allows a background check on a gun buyer to take 10 days rather than three. Approving these admittedly modest measures would be an important sign that the nation can find some unity in the effort to stop weapons from getting in the hands of dangerous individuals.

If an appropriate regulator knew in advance what has emerged about Ramos' behavior, or that of the Buffalo shooter, it would have seemed absurd to grant them the ability to get guns.

The feds more than ever need facts to set policy. For a long time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was politically stalled from studying the full picture of gun injuries and causes. The CDC began compiling that information only last year. There is this so far: Since 2017, guns have surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for Americans between ages 1 and 24.

By design, incremental bills such as those in the Senate can’t be a cure-all for mass shootings. But this basic, long-overdue legislation makes sense. Nobody’s rights would be violated. Lives could be saved. And hope could arise that a majority of this nation no longer can tolerate the daily slaughter.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.