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June 11, 1996|TED LEPON is a freelance writer. He told The Times

The carnage resulting from gunfire in the Greater Los Angeles region is a never- ending tale of terror. Yet opposition to gun control is strong from the National Rifle Assn. on the right, the American Civil Liberties Union on the left. We are inundated with deaths and injuries from gunfire on a daily basis. Drive- by shootings, accidental shootings by children playing with guns, neighborhood merchants shot in robberies, carjack shootings, bank security and transport guards shot in holdups, follow- home shootings, ATM users shot and, of course, the gang shootings. We are hostages in our own homes and neighborhoods, be they central city or suburban. Daytime gunfire is now becoming all too common.

It does not have to be this way. The strongest force available is at hand: public opinion. Not long ago, Americans were held hostage in the Middle East. After the first few days, network newscasts began by numbering the days of captivity. Local stations and newspapers picked up the case. The hostages were released.

If from any starting point, newspapers would run a feature box giving the daily and cumulative totals of gunfire inflicted deaths and injuries, TV newscasts would soon pick up the same. We would be unable to treat each as insignificant, just another one.

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