Monday’s shooting of at least 30 students at Virginia Tech University — the worst in American

history — is another horrifying reminder that some of the gravest dangers Americans face come from killers at home armed with guns that are frighteningly easy to obtain. Not much is known about the gunman or about his motives, so it is premature to draw too many lessons from this tragedy. But it seems a safe bet that in one way or another, this will turn out to be another instance in which an unstable or criminally minded individual had no trouble arming himself and harming defenceless people.

As the investigation of the shootings unfolds, it will be important to ascertain whether there were any hints of the tragedy to come and what might be done to head off such horrors in the future. Campuses are inherently open communities, and Virginia Tech has some 26,000 students using hundreds of buildings over 2,600 acres. It is not easy to guarantee a safe haven. The investigations will also need to look into the response by the campus and local police.

Our hearts and the hearts of all Americans go out to the victims and their families. Sympathy is not enough. What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.