Do we get what we pay for? Maybe.
The suspect in the Arizona killings, Jared Loughner, certainly seems crazy to me. The stories are full of incidents: bizarre outbursts in class--one college expelled him on mental grounds--bizarre silences, strange comments to friends, and so on. But no one turned him in. How would you do that anyway? Phone a hospital? The cops? The mayor?
We have no tradition of requiring periodic medical checkups for our fellow-citizens. I can't imagine Americans voting for any kind of compulsory mental exams for themselves. Can you?
It's the same with guns. Sure, the National Rifle Association is a very professional, efficient lobby. But it's also true that we as a country, as individual states, seem to favor making guns pretty easily available to just about anybody, except maybe convicted murderers. That's what we seem to want, so it shouldn't shock us that it's what we have.
We could change our laws in either of these areas, of course, but I see no evidence that we want to. I suspect we'll keep things as they are and the occasional awful tragedy will be part of the price we pay for it. Will that price ever seem too high?