The Legacy of the Va. Tech Massacre

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said the handgun massacre at Virginia Tech should spur a dormant national debate about what she calls common-sense gun control laws. One can hope. But the only thing that distinguishes the mass murder in Blacksburg from what feels like an almost daily onslaught of news reports about single, double, and even triple murders by criminals or mentally unbalanced citizens with firearms is the magnitude of the death toll. And so far even that has failed to ignite such a debate.

Perhaps a gun control expert interviewed and quoted by my usnews.com colleague Will Sullivan turns out to have guessed correctly. He writes, "Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and a former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind., said he expects the Virginia Tech shootings to shock the public and some legislators into action."

Again, one can hope. Is it also possible that last November's electoral revivification of the Democratic Party might lead to a renewed legislative gun control campaign? Possible yes, but likely? No. If the 1999 Columbine and 2006 Nickel Mines, Pa. (Amish schoolgirl) massacres didn't spur legislative action, will anything?