Fed up with violent crime, Maryland college students gather to seek solutions

March 22, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

A group of Maryland college students urged bans on assault weapons, limits on gun purchases, and more money for drug-abuse clinics yesterday as part of a broad effort to combat homicide.

"We are concerned about the direction society is going," said DTC Solomon Omo-Osagie, a political science major at Coppin State College. "We are committed to taking action against the violence that has been crippling our society."

About 20 representatives of student government associations drafted the recommendations during a weekend summit on urban homicide at Coppin State.

Addressing the recommendation for more drug-treatment programs, Mr. Omo-Osagie said, "Drug use affects the level of violence. It's our conviction that addicts should be treated as people with health problems, and not as criminals to be housed and jailed."

Students conceded the measures were familiar, but vowed to drum up support among students and professors at campuses across the state.

"We want people to get in touch with their legislators and political leaders," said Mr. Omo-Osagie, who organized the event. "Gun control is just one of the areas we want to pressure them on. There are lots of things we could be doing."

Angered by a recent rash of homicides, including the murder of a Franciscan nun in Northeast Baltimore on Friday, B-j Thompson Powell joined students in endorsing the recommendations, which also included "a stronger emphasis on convictions of drug kingpins" and eliminating plea bargaining for repeats offenders of homicide and violent crimes.

"I'm not aware of a group of any college students getting together to talk about this," said Ms. Powell, a 46-year-old graduate student at Howard University. "We're in leadership roles, and we must respond to what's going on. We have to have more than candlelight vigils."

Carolyn Carey, a Baltimore City Community College student, and Ms. Powell, who lives in Baltimore, endorsed "conflict-resolution" courses for all school children and recommendations calling for parents to take more responsibility for their children.

Such classes would help children learn mediation techniques, such as communication and understanding, Mr. Omo-Osagie said.

Ms. Powell said such techniques, which she has put to use in her West Baltimore neighborhood, help reduce violence and retaliation.

"We all have to be responsible for what's going on," said Ms. Carey, 48. "We should all be called into action. We need grass-roots efforts."

Students also blamed the media for the increasing violence in society.

"We recommend that the Federal Communications Commission be held accountable to our family infrastructure," Mr. Omo-Osagie said. "There should be a regulation of programs which advocate violence, underage sex and the consumption of alcohol and drugs."

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