Yet another mass shooting in Washington state demands action.

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THE images from the scourge of mass shootings are now numbingly familiar. White sheets cover bodies in public places where, just moments before, people were simply going about their lives. Facebook selfies become memorial photos. Resolute police commanders report the facts, flanked by grim-faced politicians. Tears and hugs.

Twenty-one people have been killed and 11 injured in seven mass shootings in Western Washington — just this year. The latest five people added to this list on Friday just happened to be at a mall cosmetic counter in Burlington.

This is not right. This is not something society can allow to become routine — that we can become numb to.

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Gov. Jay Inslee, appearing at a news conference after the shooting, accurately summarized the urgency, “We don’t have the answer to this violence. But I do know this: Passivity in the face of this scourge of violence is unacceptable. Inaction in the face of this violence is unacceptable.”

Law-enforcement personnel shield the bodies of four slain victims from view of Interstate 5 traffic as they are removed from the Macy’s store at Cascade Mall Saturday afternoon. Five people died when a gunman opened fire in the store Friday night.  (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Law-enforcement personnel shield the bodies of four slain victims from view of Interstate 5 traffic as they are removed from the Macy’s store at Cascade Mall Saturday afternoon. Five people died when a gunman opened fire in the store Friday night. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The how and why of the mass shooting at the Cascade Mall will emerge in the coming days. These details matter, because we must learn from each tragedy and craft interventions to staunch the bloodshed.

But the recent toll already has exposed obvious gaps. In past tragedies, emotionally troubled men slipped through gaps in our fractured mental-health system. That may be the case at the Cascade Mall — the suspected shooter in custody was in mental-health counseling because of domestic-violence incidents. More will be learned in coming days.

The need for a stronger mental-health safety net is excruciatingly well-documented. Washington ranks 50th among states in the nation in providing mental-health care to adults, according to Mental Health America. That’s based on Washington’s unusually high rate of mental illness and its disgracefully low availability of treatment.

Another common denominator in these tragedies is easy access to guns.”

Another common denominator in these tragedies is easy access to guns.

In November, voters should add a new common-sense restriction and approve Initiative 1491. It would allow families to go to court and have guns temporarily taken away from unstable loved ones. It is unclear whether such a law could have made a difference in this latest tragedy; it certainly could have in other cases.

The memorials of the victims of Friday night’s mall shooting will begin soon — history repeating itself. Take a moment and read about the lives lost — from the “perfect child” killed at age 16 to the 95-year-old woman killed alongside her own daughter.

What if they were you? Your loved one?

What will you do to stop the next tragedy?