Almost always, guns used in mass murders such as that at a Newtown, Conn., school last week were purchased and owned legally. But weapons used by the criminal element are a different story. Often, so they cannot be traced back to offenders, they are stolen and obtained on the black market.
Police in Steubenville have earned a big pat on the back, then, for an arrest they made early Monday.
After chasing a man who fled from an accident, police cornered him in a residence. In the process of apprehending him, they found 24 rifles, allegedly stolen by the suspect from a home in Wetzel County.
Most, if not all, of those guns probably were destined for a pawn shop in a distant city. But stolen weapons, especially pistols, sometimes are sold directly to other wrongdoers.
That puts the guns in dangerous hands. Sometimes they are used in armed robberies, burglaries, and by drug dealers. And sometimes, they are used to kill people.
By finding and confiscating the stolen guns, Steubenville police have done more than get the weapons started back to their rightful owner. They may well have kept some rifles out of the hands of criminals. Again, that was a good day's work for the officers, who deserve to be commended.