Our problem, at its heart, is that we produce so many boys who want to shoot up a classroom full of students or a supermarket full of strangers. This is a cultural sickness, and our plague of occasional mass shootings will never be fixed until the patient, American culture, is cured through the revitalization of community and the restoration of family.

That is a very long haul, which implies two things: First, it means we must put in generations of work to mend what generations of cultural vandalism and confusion have damaged. Second, it means we cannot subside into apathy in the short term and wait to act until the long-haul problems have been solved. Something else is needed now.

Logic should trump fear, and we should realize that although massacres such as the one just perpetrated in Texas are horrific, they are also rare. Even with such horrors, children are safer in school than in most other places — safer there, for example, than they are on their journey to school each morning. But although these shootings are statistically rare, they are less rare than they were. And they need to be rarer again. The human heart demands an active response to something as evil and devastating as this stream of massacres, especially of innocent children. Such killings are simply intolerable.

Here’s the problem: Most proposed responses are already in place, would be ineffective, or would backfire. So we must think harder, debate in good faith, and find a way to unify behind solutions that can do more good than harm.

Some proposals would regulate gun purchases, while others would promote school safety and increase police capability and accountability. All would come at a cost, not mostly of money but of liberty, a sense of peace, and the time and energy needed for a more consistent engagement by school authorities and parents. The trade-offs require serious debate and consideration.

An “assault weapons" ban is the go-to recourse of people, mostly on the Left, who care more about seeming to care than about doing something effective. It is pure symbolism, for every definition of “assault weapon” is grounded in the appearance of a gun rather than its capabilities. The deeper problem is that so many gun control proposals are based on the false premise that we can outlaw “murder weapons” without outlawing “legitimate” guns used for personal defense, hunting, or other legal activities. That distinction doesn’t exist.

But just as there is a vacuous reflex on the Left, so too is there one on the Right. Some conservatives automatically oppose any and all restrictions proposed to moderate the purchase and bearing of arms. This tendency and those who adopt it should be challenged.

The bump stock ban, which we supported in the wake of the 2017 Las Vegas mass murder, is being challenged in court right now, even though bump stocks are designed to circumvent a sensible law that keeps fully automatic rifles out of most civilian hands. Gun ownership, per se, is not a bad thing, which is why it is in the Bill of Rights. But that does not mean all gun ownership is desirable or should be legal.

If we look at the buyer of the weapon rather than the weapon being bought, we might find more useful distinctions. Mass shooters are disproportionately young men. Psychosis tends to show up somewhere around age 18. We have had more than half a century of a hands-off, individual liberty approach to mental illness, and, though there are solid arguments on that side, we are also seeing some of the deadly consequences. A more interventionist approach must be considered.

Texas, like many states, bars the purchase of handguns before a person’s 21st birthday. Florida extends that 21 age limit to rifles and shotguns. Depriving 18-year-olds of the right to buy their own weapons is certainly an intrusion on liberty, not to be made lightly, but it should also be considered, for the state has successfully defended that law in federal court. The shooter in Uvalde, Texas, could not have legally bought his weapons under Florida’s law.

Other measures could target dangerous would-be buyers. Congress in recent years has considered “red flag” laws that strip gun rights from people adjudged dangerous. This could include wife beaters, violent felons, and the mentally ill. Such laws are dangerous, as governments can abuse them, stripping gun rights from political dissidents. But if a law could preserve the civil rights of those who abide by the law while keeping guns out of the hands of real threats, it would be a boon.

“Hardening” of school buildings is also on the table. Hundreds of thousands of American schools already have single-entry points, many of which are guarded and reinforced. This is often paired with multiple exit routes for escape in an emergency. Any school district that wants these protections should have the funding to install them. Congress and state governments should provide it. Money spent on security would have both merit and wide support — more merit and support than do the folly and waste of spending on ever more school administrators and on left-wing indoctrination of students.

It would, however, be absurd for Congress or a state government to prescribe a single security profile for school grounds given the diversity of layouts on the regional, local, and individual school levels. Making schools feel more like prison has a cost: adding to the very sense of alienation that underlies the mass shooter plague.

What’s more, Uvalde was already “hardened,” with state money and mandates, following school shootings that occurred in Texas in the past decade. There’s a limit to how much this “hardening” can do. A school is only hardened to the extent that the measures used to harden it — single entry points, guards willing to run to the sound of gunfire, etc. — are an active reality rather than a pro forma charade that fails when faced with deadly reality.

The Uvalde horror echoed the Parkland, Florida, horror in a way that ties directly to public policy. In both cases, it appears, police abdicated their duty to protect children from a shooter. There’s no simple way to make officers do their jobs, but any state or city looking to make children safer should begin by looking at the training and accountability of the men and women tasked with stopping such violence.

Parents have shown themselves readier recently to demand that schools change when they are treating children improperly. This has mostly been confined to insisting that schools open and focus on real education rather than on ideological indoctrination on such matters as race and gender. We would encourage parents to direct more of their energy to demand that schools be made safe and to hold administrators accountable for security.

We would also encourage government at all levels to adopt policies that promote school choice. Parents need the power to move money away from schools that do not protect children to schools that do.

No one solution will fix the dire and difficult problem revealed most recently by the mass murder of fourth graders in Texas. That should be a spur to immediate and long-term action, not an excuse for inaction either now or over the coming decades.