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Will this tragedy finally spark some real action?

April 24, 2007|by PETE BLACK

The horrific massacre that transpired on April 16 at Virginia Tech is now at the forefront of the collective thoughts of our entire nation. But how long will it remain there? This is not the first tragedy of such magnitude to have occurred, and if we fail to make some important changes, it will not be the last.

This tragedy proved that the many safety nets designed to prevent such an event are grossly inadequate. For example, despite shooter Cho Seung-hui's macabre writings and clear outward signs of serious mental illness, he was allowed to remain at the university.

Even though his writing exposed a fascination with weapons and sadistic thoughts, he was allowed to purchase not one but two guns. These firearms, along with a stockpile of ammunition, were kept with him at the university.

As I have stated previously, this is not the first such incident to have happened. We should have learned our lesson from such infamous massacres as the 1999 slaughter at Columbine High School. These incidents should have taught us that students and firearms don't mix.

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Each time such terrors have happened, we have expressed outrage and demanded reforms to prevent similar tragedies from taking place. Yet our fervor for change has proven itself over and over again to be quite fickle; we forget all about massacres only a few weeks after they happen, and reform efforts are pushed to the back burner, all but forsaken until the next bloodbath.

But our reaction to this tragedy doesn't have to be like the others. We still can enact stricter gun control laws, laws that will keep guns out of the hands of students, the mentally incompetent and those prone to violence.

However, in order to do so, we must remain determined and not forget about April 16 so quickly. It takes more than a few weeks' public outcry to pass laws that could hinder future shootings. It takes a insistent, steadfast effort for legislative intervention to take place.

Let us unite and demand that America's students receive the protection they so desperately need. We cannot replace the precious lives which were lost that Monday, nor can we ever replace the gaping holes torn in the families of the victims.

But we can protect the students who were not victims of this massacre. Let us not profane the memory of those who died by forgetting about them and allowing yet another shooting to occur.

Let's finally enact the reforms that have been necessary for years. Let this time be the time we break the cycle that leads to repeated incidents. The power to cause such change rests in your hands.

Pete Black is a student at Hagerstown Community College who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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