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Gun Control Debate Resurfaces in Wake of Deadly US School Shootings


Parents and communities across the United States have been shaken by a recent series of deadly school shootings in a handful of small towns and rural communities. The violence has focused attention on a longstanding argument about whether the U.S. should enact stronger gun control laws.

In less than a week, a total of six students across the United States have been shot and killed. Five girls between the ages of 13 and 7 died after a stranger seized their one-room schoolhouse in a remote area of Pennsylvania.

Just days earlier, a female high school student in Colorado was killed after a homeless man took her and several classmates hostage.

Between those two incidents, a 15-year-old student gunned down a principal at a small Wisconsin high school.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says the incidents are proof the entire nation can be affected by gun violence. "And for too long, folks have turned basically a blind eye to some of the shootings if they occur in the poorer part of town, or the other part of town, or felt that it happened in the big city, or people of a different color or a different class. These recent shootings, certainly tragic, part of what they do is they bring home that this is happening every day at some level in America."

The Brady Campaign is one of many groups, which have advocated for stronger gun control laws in the United States. In the 1990s, they successfully pushed for laws that require a waiting period and background check for potential gun buyers, and a ban on assault weapons.

But Helmke says their efforts have gotten more difficult in recent years. "If anything, we've gone backwards, we've let the assault weapons ban expire in 2004. We constantly are fighting legislation that would make it harder to crack down on gun dealers, that would make it impossible to find out where the guns that are used illegally are coming from."

They have also come up against many groups, such as the Natonal Rifle Association, which believe more gun control laws would violate the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

Connie Hair, a spokeswoman for the Second Amendment Sisters, says this is more than just a basic American right. "Well the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantees us the right to defend ourselves, and we're protecting the second amendment, you have a right to defend yourself. And if you regulate weapons by taking them away from everyone, only the bad guys will have weapons. You just have a fundamental right to defend yourself. "

Hair says more gun control laws are not the answer in preventing any future school shootings. "There's really not a law that you can put on the books outside of outright confiscation of weapons, which is ludicrous.

Our hearts go out to those poor parents who lost seven-year-old daughters and 13-year-old daughters. But there's not one law on the books that would have taken the guns out of that man's hands, because he had never committed a crime. There's nothing you could have done to prevent that with a law, like I said outside of outright confiscation."

President Bush has convened a meeting of leading experts at the White House next week to determine how best the federal government can help states and local governments improve school safety.

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