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Virginia Tech Remembers Shooting Victims As Classes Resume

Students and faculty returned to classes at Virginia Tech University, one week after the worst mass-shooting spree in U.S. history. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

A bell on the Virginia Tech campus tolled 32 times for each of the shooting victims in last week's massacre.

Students observed a moment of silence for those who died at the hands of Cho Seung-hui and carried white flags and released balloons into the air as memorials to the victims.

Tech students were given the option of returning to class or spending the rest of the semester at home without academic penalty.

Many students decided they were ready to return to classes.

"I think it is important to return to school and, you know, to show the nation and ourselves that we can continue despite this," a student said.

"We need to be here as a community and we are not going to get better if we just run away from everything that happened last week," said another one.

University officials requested that reporters stay away from students once classes restart, following an intense period of national and international media coverage last week.

Meanwhile, a debate over gun control has intensified.

Most members of Congress appear reluctant to push for new restrictions on weapons in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. But there is a growing consensus that the gunman responsible should not have been allowed to purchase weapons.

Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania supports stronger enforcement of background checks that would deny guns to those who have a history of mental illness. Specter spoke on Fox News Sunday.

"There is no doubt that current law prohibits giving a gun to a person who is mentally defective, who has a mental problem of the nature that he had. So there was a definite failure of communication and that ought to be changed with federal legislation," he said.

Some conservatives argue that a student or professor who was armed might have been able to stop the massacre at Virginia Tech.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told ABC's This Week that calls from Britain and Australia to toughen U.S. gun laws will have little impact on the gun control debate.

"I would also point out that in countries that have had absolute bans, Great Britain, Australia, gun violence has actually gone up because the criminals end up buying illegal guns, but the law abiding, honest citizen is, in effect, disarmed," he said.

But Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker questioned Gingrich's contention that allowing students to carry guns would make classrooms safer.

A state medical examiner said an initial autopsy of the gunman, Cho Seung-hui, found no brain abnormalities that would explain his rampage. The examiner also said Cho fired more than 100 bullets into his victims and that some of them were shot several times.