IS there an explanation for the murder of Sir David Amess that can be addressed through legislation or prohibition in the aftermath? Almost certainly not but the temptation to persuade ourselves otherwise is always strong.

Each proposal has to be judged on its own merits rather than promoted as a reaction to what occurred. No proposed solution eclipses the possibility of attack at the hands of a determined pursuer and the balance between accessibility and security will remain elusive.

My own experience of constituency surgeries did little to persuade me they are an indispensable feature of democracy. Meeting people who really need to see an MP in surroundings of their choosing is a more effective use of time while the vast majority of constituency cases are dealt with by the politician’s staff.

On that front, constituency offices have been closed for the better part of two years and I guess ways have been found to accommodate this without access or democracy grinding to a halt. The diligent MP will find ways of keeping in touch with constituents that do not involve policemen following them around.

READ MORE: Galleries: The pioneering John Mackechnie is still true to his original vision

The far bigger questions involve subjects even more difficult to address. How many potential assassins are lurking in the wings, spurred on by some crazed ideology whether religious or on the fringes of political extremism? And does the state devote sufficient resources to tracking and tracing them?

That is a very tough one for any government to get right. Apply a relatively light touch to avoid allegations of harassment and it becomes more possible for outliers to slip through the net. Apply a tougher, “just in case” approach and charges of discrimination and infringing liberties will follow not far behind. And the net will never be wide enough.

No state is free from these dilemmas, as Norway’s experience has again reminded us, and none has found the answer. Trusting in government is not very fashionable advice but my own experience is that the people entrusted with safeguarding us all – not just politicians – from those with violent intent are pretty good at a job which we only hear about when a failure occurs.

Then we come to the online community. In the Commons this week, the Tory MP and friend of David Amess, Mark Francois declared he was “minded to drag Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to the bar of the House … if necessary kicking and screaming so they can look us all in the eye and account for their actions or rather their inactions that make them even richer than they already are”.

In other, less emotive, settings this might seem an excellent idea but the implied connection between a brutal murder and Facebook, Twitter or their respective chief executives is, at best, unproven. Indeed, this would be a classic example of acting on the basis of a causal connection for which there is no evidence.

As it happens, I am very much in favour of tighter regulation over the publication of material online but once you get into the nitty-gritty of how it is to be done, the problems – and possible counter-productive outcomes – do not take long to present themselves.

I have always found the assumed right to anonymity in online communication a bit puzzling. In the old days, much of what now appears under pseudonyms would have been called a poison pen letter. If a threatening tone was involved, the offending item might be referred to forensics for examination of green ink and postage stamp.

Before anyone noticed, the new technology allowed handfuls of these hand-written communications to be transformed into an avalanche of online poison, the vast majority of perpetrators still shielded by anonymity and legitimised by lofty talk about “freedom of expression”. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.

The law has never come close to catching up and, I suspect, never will. The most recent politician to find how difficult it is to regulate effectively was Justin Trudeau whose Canadian administration faced a barrage of attack from two directions – the civil liberties lobby and corporate vested interests.

An article for a Canadian think-tank (via the internet of course) analysed the unholy alliance Trudeau’s government ran into: “This idea of a free and open internet in which free speech is the guiding principle is evident in social media companies’ self-portrayal. They sell themselves as mere technical, passive intermediaries (and) have co-opted this ideology to the extent that regulation of their activities is seen as an attack on the internet itself”.

I wish our own Parliamentarians greater success in bringing the companies to heel and imposing some restrictions on the right to anonymity and also the “free speech” mantra which is deployed even in order to give cover to the kind of hatred that was being discussed this week.

My view tends to be that existing laws could be utilised more extensively without waiting for new ones. A few high-profile cases each week in which the internet has been used as a 21st century version of the poison pen letter would make others think twice. Is it beyond existing powers of the police to break through the cover of anonymity?

But please keep the arguments separate. The internet did not kill David Amess. An individual with a knife allegedly did. When the full facts are known, we will be better placed to judge the most relevant factors to be addressed.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.