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Of all the wrenching similarities between the massacres at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, one stands out most starkly: Each gun used was purchased legally.

From 1966 to 2019, 77% of mass shooters obtained the weapons they used in their crimes through legal purchases, according to a comprehensive survey of law enforcement data, academic papers and news accounts compiled by the National Institute of Justice, the research wing of the Justice Department.

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