Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Anniston (Alabama) Star on gun rights in America:

What America needs are common-sense gun-control laws that respect both sides of the argument and do whatever’s necessary to thwart preventable gun-related violence.

Last Friday, a young man in an upscale California community killed six people and then committed suicide with legally bought handguns. Elliot Rodger, the gunman, left a trail of social-media explanations for why he sought revenge against those he felt had shunned him. In the last few days it’s become apparent that Rodgers’ previous encounters with law enforcement and mental-health officials weren’t enough to stop this unsteady young man from committing another of these all-too-common American mass murders.

The Second Amendment ”“ regardless of your modern-day interpretation of it ”“ doesn’t touch on one of gun control’s biggest problems: how to keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them because of health concerns.

This passage from Monday’s Los Angeles Times is particularly wise. “The mental health system is imperfect, by design ”“ a teeter-totter that weighs patients’ civil liberties against public safety. Rodger existed in the middle, on the fulcrum, simmering and disturbed, just beyond arm’s reach.”

When it comes to gun violence in the United States, statistics are both helpful and confusing. Since the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut in December 2012, there have been at least 44 additional school shootings in America, according to gun-control advocacy groups Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Nevertheless, Bureau of Justice data released last summer show that the number of gun-violence deaths dropped 39 percent between 1993 and 2011.

If you want a verified statistic involving guns in America, you can find it.

Devoid of spin or political influence is this fact: guns are readily available to too many people with mental-health issues. Databases designed to prevent the mentally ill from legally purchasing guns work well in too few states. And from the law-enforcement perspective, there’s this: Half or more of the people shot and killed each year by police have mental-health problems, according to a study from the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center.

America’s quest for a safer nation compels us to rethink the “teeter-totter” that’s allowing guns to legally get into the hands of the wrong people. The death toll rises, yet again.

Chicago Tribune on Mideast trip shows pope’s talent for diplomacy:

Pope Francis was guaranteed to make headlines on his visit to the Middle East just by the fact that the head of the Roman Catholic Church was going to one of the most tense regions in the world. He did make headlines … but he also showed he has a remarkable talent for diplomacy and a flair for the dramatic gesture.

The safest course would have been to script every moment of his itinerary and reduce the risk of controversy.

So what did he do? Made an apparently impromptu invitation Sunday to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to visit the Vatican to pray for peace. Both men accepted. Since Peres does not lead Israel’s government ”“ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does ”“ this is not likely the stuff of a big diplomatic breakthrough. Still, it was a grand symbolic gesture: raising the prospect of Jewish and Palestinian leaders praying together at the seat of Roman Catholicism.

Apparently at Abbas’ urging, Francis made an unexpected stop Sunday at a graffiti-covered section of Israel’s security barrier on the edge of Bethlehem, where the pope touched his forehead to the wall and said a prayer. Palestinians view the security wall as evidence of Israel’s intolerable control over their territory. Israel sees the wall as essential to its defense against Palestinian attacks. The stop rankled Netanyahu.

A day later, at the suggestion of Netanyahu, Francis made an unscheduled visit to a memorial to victims of terrorism. He also visited the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism who espoused the idea of the modern Jewish state. That visit rankled some Palestinians. Overall, though, Palestinians had to be pleased that the pope during this trip repeatedly supported their bid for statehood.

The journey created no breakthrough in the long and immensely vexing process of reaching peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But the pope did force leaders on both sides, at least momentarily, out of their comfort zones. There’s value in that. The pope should take his show on the road again soon.