So now we mourn.
We mourn for nine men and women killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
We mourn for their husbands and wives, their children and their families, including Charlotte’s Malcolm Graham, a former North Carolina Senator whose sister was among the nine victims.
We mourn like we did with Sandy Hook, with Aurora, with too many other killings that tie us together in sorrow.
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Now we ask the questions.
Who was Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old who sat among the bowed heads for an hour before deciding the time was right to kill? Why did he pick these people, this place? And, of course: Why did he receive the gift of a gun for his birthday?
We debate such things regularly on these pages.
We write about the easy availability of weapons, even for the mentally unfit, and we lament the unwillingness of lawmakers here and in Washington to do simple things like toughen background checks.
We write about race and the toxic conversations we have about it, and we worry where those conversations lead people.
We don’t know that any tougher law or any better conversation on race would have stopped it from happening.
We do know that it is entirely and disturbingly possible that the killer was simply someone so consumed by hate or debilitated by mental illness that our boundaries, legal and otherwise, did not apply to his behavior.
So now we pray.
That we will do more to get help to those with mental illness. That we will do less to make it easier for them to kill. That even if these things wouldn’t have prevented this tragedy, that they might stop another.
And now we mourn. For nine people killed. For families that face a cold, concrete path ahead. For ourselves. Again.
A version of this editorial was originally written and published by the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina.