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Gun violence: What is happening to us?

We’ve seen it tear apart and ruin young lives at Columbine; we’ve seen it strike at the heart of innocence in Lancaster; now we’ve witnessed it bring sorrow to the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech.

Gun violence is something that must be taken more seriously. In 2005, 68 percent of the 14,860 homicides in the United States were linked to firearms. This staggering number of deaths is higher than any other developed country.

This is not something we should be taking lightly, and as we move towards life in the wake of VT, we should be thinking about strengthening and tightening our policies on gun control. Gun violence is not something that should be linked solely to mentally deranged, isolated individuals but rather something that occurs on many different levels.

In our own city of Philadelphia, we have witnessed a catastrophic wave of gun-related deaths and murders that have the police and city officials at a loss. Last month, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 80 percent of the 130 murders so far this year involved handguns. This number is three times that of New York City and Los Angeles. With an average of five shootings a day, the incidents of homicides since 2002 has increased by 40 percent.

What the hell is going on?

Perhaps it should give us pause to think about our society as a whole and why violence is such a prevalent occurrence. Is our culture really saturated and consumed by a violent desire to kill?

I am not saying that every American who is in favor of guns is also in favor of the violence perpetuated by them. In fact, there are many upstanding citizens who love to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear firearms.

But perhaps some would be willing to give up some of those rights in hopes for a better and safer country. Many of those same people were willing to give up certain personal liberties and freedoms for the sake of homeland security and bills like the Patriot Act.

A recent poll put out by MSNBC said that 47 percent of Americans favored stricter gun control laws, while 37 percent thought that they should not be changed and 11 percent thought they should be loosened.

After the tragedy of Columbine occurred in 1999, this issue of gun control arose and received a lot of public interest. But after a while, it was swept under the rug and has been barely spoken about for the past couple of years.

It’s time that we bring it up again. It’s time to change policies. Guns should not be readily available to those in the inner city. We also need to create stricter policies surrounding those who use large weapons for hunting and recreational purposes.

Some people have this notion that carrying a gun will make them safer, or that a gun can solve just about any problem. Where do these ideas come from? Is it the media, video games or movies?

In his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope, Sen. Barack Obama wrote, “I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturer’s lobby. But I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels someone disrespected him, we have a problem of morality. Not only do we need to punish that man for his crime, but we need to acknowledge that there’s a hole in his heart.”

Perhaps the young killer at VT also had a hole in his heart where anger and evil leaked in. However, our nation can rise up and say no to the possibility of that anger and deny the right to purchase these killing machines.

Obama favors stricter policies on gun control and supports a ban on the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons. He also supports an increase on state restrictions and limits on the purchase and possession of firearms.

I think that he’s on to something. But it shouldn’t take a black day like April 16, 2007 to show us the horrors of gun violence. It’s time for a change.

Affectionately dedicated to the casualties and the wounded at Virginia Tech.

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