The murders of 703 people in the District area in 1990 has inspired another chorus of demands for gun control. I am not a gun "nut," but I consider the availability of guns to be only a minor factor in the calculus of the problem facing our society. A far more important factor is our cultural attitude toward violence, for which all of us are responsible.

Our children are exposed from their earliest moments to a cacophony of gratuitous violence -- in movies, music, books and on television. So pervasive is the background of commercial violence, that real violence has lost its meaning.

Several years ago, I was amazed to hear my 4-year-old niece using the word "hate." She had picked it up from the "Smurfs." Out of curiosity, I watched this cartoon and found that one "Smurf" character uses the word "hate" as a leitmotif. Even more stupefying was the character of Papa Smurf. This father figure responded to every crisis by concocting a behavior-altering potion -- and we wonder why our kids are tolerant about drug use.

A just society is based on respect for individuals. Yet every interpersonal relationship -- respect for parents, for siblings, for others -- is held up to ridicule on such TV programs as "Roseanne," "The Simpsons" and "Married with Children." A recent "Simpsons" episode even had Bart offering a before-dinner grace that mocked the existence of God. Marriage, family, government, education and the law receive similar treatment. And yet we continue to think that gun control will replace our lack of moral or ethical standards.

According to news reports, the book "American Psycho" describes unspeakable violence against women. The author reportedly got a $300,000 advance, not from some sleazy purveyor of pornography, but from Simon & Schuster. So it's hardly surprising that this Christmas was marked by the opening of the violent movie "Godfather III."

The employees of Simon & Schuster took a courageous stand and forced Simon & Schuster to cancel its publication of "American Psycho." If we are really serious about stemming the violence sweeping our streets, we must each take a similar stand. The control of commercial violence does not require government, police or court action. It does, however, require individual action. We must simply refuse to make commercial violence profitable. If we hold back our dollars, we can stop the violence.

Unless and until we are willing to do so, we must accept the fact that our fingers lay on the trigger of the guns that killed 703 people just as surely as those who actually held them. -- Michael L. Thomas

Every time I hear of another murder in the Greater Washington area, I hurt deeply, because I am a survivor of a murder victim. The murder of James "Jay" Bias was painful to me, because the events and circumstances of his death nearly parallel those in the murder of my son, Lionel Harris, who was gunned down in Georgetown after a chance encounter with an angry young man inside a record store.

Like my son, Jay was on a shopping excursion when he had a fleeting verbal altercation instigated by a stranger over a woman. But the horrifyingly ironic similarities don't stop there. Both Lionel and Jay walked to a parking lot and then, while seated in their Toyotas, had their bodies fatally pierced by gunfire.

As the murder of Jay rekindled the crusader's passion in his parents, it has also brought back with intensity the anger and mourning I feel for Lionel, who was three weeks short of his 18th birthday when he was murdered in March of 1988.

People say God doesn't give you more than you can bear, but when does the load get too heavy? How does the Bias family bury two children, both victims of a fate that capriciously snuffed out their lives before they reached their potential?

At the risk of sounding heartless, I thank God that I don't have any more children to lose. And I pray for the safety of my nieces and nephews and that we will soon have an end to this madness.

There does not appear to be a simple answer to this violence, but I am sure there are common denominators. We need to get into the psychology that motivates these killers and find out what happened in their lives that made them killers.

More immediately, however, and of this I am certain -- we need to ban handguns nationwide, and we need stiffer penalties for both illegal gun possession and acts of violence committed with handguns. Authorities have been blaming the murder rate on the drug problem, but now we must finally accept that firearms, not drugs, fuel the murder rate.

I have been crusading against this violence for two years and nine months and not much has changed except the names of the victims. Unless we act now and ban handguns and hold people responsible for their actions, the next victim could be you or one of your loved ones. -- Cynthia B. Harris is a special assistant to the mayor for drug control policy.

The killers and victims of Washington's crime wave are being honored by the community with such fervor that another wave of violence is sure to follow. (For an example, see the Metro section page-one coverage of the funeral of Jay Bias {Dec. 9}.)

If the TV cameras are there, the funeral will be an extravaganza. The minister will pull out all the stops. Hundreds will be in attendance, dressed up like it's a Tyson fight. The florist will work overtime. And as the music and singing fill the air, the crowd will move and be moved. Mother, sisters and girlfriends will cry. The men will shake their heads and sigh.

What are we teaching our children with this hoopla? That fame and glory are just a shot away? No schooling or years of labor needed for that 15 minutes of fame. Instant recognition available to anyone with a gun. The killing will continue until we stop celebrating violent death.

Maybe we should focus more on the not so glorious aftermath of the big event. Kids need to be shown the drudgery of prison life and the fate of those who aren't killed, just permanently disabled.

The District has the toughest gun-control laws in the nation. It's time to make them work. We need to establish a bounty system for information leading to the arrest of those possessing firearms. How about $100 in cash to anonymous informers for each weapon seized?

A well-run, highly publicized hot-line program that guarantees anonymity and quick cash payoffs (upon arrest, not conviction) would save more lives than all the well-intentioned speeches and sermons combined. We can't wait for drugs to be decriminalized or for the gunslingers to wipe each other out. We can get them to turn each other in for quick cash.

A bounty program will of course increase the burden on our beleaguered police force. The immediate results generated however, might make this additional work worth it.

With a new administration taking office it seems the perfect time to replace words with action. If only one gun is confiscated, good -- that gun may be carrying the bullet with your name on it. Enough is enough. -- Mike Donahoe