It didn't happen out of the blue; the shooter had a long-running grudge against the newspaper (since a 2012 report on a harassment suit against him) and when discussing filing a restraining order, one of the staff had told the paper's attorneys that "this is a guy who will shoot us."
He used a shotgun, not an "assault weapon." He was almost certainly legally prohibited from possessing firearms.
Maryland's gun laws are strict; the Giffords Law Center seems to have taken over from the Brady people on handing out letter grades and they rate Maryland A-, just like New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and a few other states.
But the paper never filed a restraining order; the killer was able to walk right up to what are described as the "glass doors" of the newsroom with a longarm and shoot them to smithereens, which suggests that physical security was inadequate.
Blame the gun? Shotguns are one of the most widely-owned and least-expensive firearms in the United States.
Blame the law? Maryland has nearly every law gun-controllers might want. It didn't stop him.
Blame the paper? --True, they made an inadequate response to a known threat -- but newsrooms deal with angry people bearing grudges every week, if not daily. It's been a part of the "background noise" of the news business for decades and winnowing the real threats from the idly irked or harmlessly loony is difficult if not impossible.*
Blame the NRA? They didn't put the shotgun in his hand; and if he was indeed prohibited from owning guns as a result of his criminal history or a restraining order, that's a law the NRA is happy to see enforced.
I don't have any easy answers and I'm not about to test the ire of concerned people by offering "thoughts and prayers." This is an outrage; murders are always an outrage, always a tragedy. I don't think there are any nice, neat ways to prevent them.
We can expect the usual arguments to be thrown back and forth.
* My workplace puts a greater emphasis on security than many others in the news business -- but we've got bigger budgets. The dreadful calculus is that you get as much of the security your bosses think you need as your employer can afford.
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