Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Among the angles to consider in the multifaceted horror of last week's shootings in Burnsville is this one: The shooter, identified as Shannon Cortez Gooden, did not have a legal right to possess firearms. A judge had stripped him of that right following an assault conviction in 2008. Gooden had appealed to the court to have his gun rights restored and was denied.

And yet the Burnsville shootings happened. With children in the house, Gooden was able to bring a small arsenal to bear against first responders, killing three of them, wounding a fourth, apparently killing himself and inflicting who knows what kind of traumatic damage on the children in his "care."

The Burnsville tragedy provides an eloquent repudiation to the status quo of gun control in Minnesota. We settle for doing a little because we have come to believe we cannot do much.

Minnesota legislators were able to pass a so-called red-flag law last year, and it is valuable legislation as far as it goes. The law provides a mechanism by which people who shouldn't have guns can be temporarily disarmed. But the courts were well aware that Gooden should not have guns, and repeatedly asserted its prohibition against his having them. We're still waiting to learn how he acquired the weapons he used, and Gov. Tim Walz has expressed his desire to get answers. But in a country with more guns than people, we worry that the answers won't matter very much. Guns are simply too available.

Last year also saw the passage of universal background checks — another good law that has too little effect on those who are willing to obtain guns illegally.

Now, against the backdrop of those small measures to reduce the scourge of gun violence, consider the litany of things that might have been done but weren't.

A requirement that guns be licensed? No. How about gun registration? Not a chance. A requirement that guns be made operable only by their legal owner? No, although the technology is available. We notice that something similar is already in use at Whole Foods cash registers.

Maybe a broad mandate that guns are stored safely, like in a gun safe? No. Or a requirement that gun owners undergo a course of safety training? Not that, either, unless they are hunters born after 1979. Maybe a limit on magazine size? No. Or how about a requirement that you must report a lost or stolen gun to the police? Dream on. A ban on assault-type weapons? Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and others are offering such bans in the current legislative session, but we won't hold our breath.

Marty has expressed frustration at the inability of the DFL to move toward a ban on assault weapons. "It's still disappointing to me how the public is ahead of the politicians on this one," he told the Minnesota Reformer. "I think the DFL perspective on this is bad."

Marty and like-minded legislators are pursuing a slate of gun-law initiatives that, besides banning assault-style rifles, would limit magazine size; mandate that guns are stored safely; initiate a registration system for semi-automatic rifles and begin efforts to buy them back, and allow local governments to enact their own gun laws.

Maybe none of these initiatives would have been enough to prevent the tragedy in Burnsville. Maybe current laws would have been sufficient had they been more stringently enforced. But more tragedies are coming. We should be doing more — as much as we reasonably can — to head them off.