Here we are again.
Another unstable, disgruntled young man, another gathering place, a dozen more lives randomly taken. Another massacre added to the list: Sandy Hook Elementary. Aurora, Colo. Fort Hood. Virginia Tech. Tucson, Ariz. Now, the Washington Navy Yard. Just another violent day in America.
The sad ritual that follows has grown familiar.
Families are mourning. Friends, co-workers and strangers will gather for candlelight vigils and religious services. Photos, flowers, notes and other memorial tributes already are consecrating the scene.
News accounts describe someone who had no trouble obtaining several weapons, despite an obvious need for mental health care and a history of misusing firearms. Political speeches will follow. Editorials — here's one — will denounce these senseless killings and a stubborn refusal to better regulate access to firearms.
After a time, the cycle will repeat itself. And again. And again after that.
Alexey Pushkov, a Russian legislator, called Monday's slayings "a clear confirmation of American exceptionalism."
His display of sarcasm echoed a theme from a New York Times op-ed on Syria by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pushkov's remark was flippant, insensitive, even rude. But was he wrong?
There have been so many mass killings in this country that it's hard to keep track.
Do you remember Binghamton, N.Y.? That was just four years ago. Thirteen people killed in an immigrant community center.
How about San Ysidro? Twenty-one people slain at a McDonald's restaurant in 1984.
Killeen, Texas? Twenty-three people killed in a cafeteria in 1991.
In this post-9/11 era, Americans grudgingly accept the growing security state. We're surrounded by security cameras. We're scanned at airports, walk through metal detectors at courthouses, surrender our bags to be searched at public buildings and even sports arenas. Still, Aaron Alexis entered the Navy Yard unchallenged, carrying a handgun, a shotgun and a rifle.
National Rifle Association leaders and their allies say the answer is more firearms; arming potential victims as a defense against crazed gunman.
Fort Hood and the Navy Yard are military installations. The service members are well trained. Many are combat veterans. Security personnel are armed. Yet they weren't able to save any of the 25 victims of those rampages.
A Congressional Research Service report published in March identified 78 mass shootings, taking 547 lives, over the past 30 years. But that's a small fraction of the gun-related homicides in the United States, which have exceeded 11,000 annually since 2001.
No law will prevent every homicide, every mass murder. But there's no denying that the easy availability of firearms is a factor in the carnage. Steps can be taken that don't trample on Second Amendment rights, steps that have support from many responsible gun owners. They include universal background checks, reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons and limiting the size of ammunition magazines.
Monday's shooting was so close to Capitol Hill that the Senate was locked down. Will that finally break the cycle?