Veronica Roberts

I am overwhelmed by the tragic paradox of it all. As lawmakers, gun control advocates and the National Rifle Association prepared to debate guns rights on Wednesday, the death toll from gun violence continued to rise.

A teenager with a promising life ahead of her—and who had performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington last week with her school band and drill team—was gunned down on Chicago’s South Side on Tuesday.

It is another painful, shameful statistic in Chicago’s escalating genocide-like gun violence. It's only January, the first month of the new year, but CNN reports that already 42 people have been killed by gun violence on the mean streets of Chicago. Hadiya was number 42.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old sophomore at King College Prep, was shot and killed as she was hanging out with friends at a park after taking exams at school. The shooting, which occurred around 2:20 p.m., also wounded a 16-year-old boy; he remains in critical condition.

NBC News reports that Pendleton, referred to as “walking angel” by a relative, was standing under a canopy at Vivian Gordon Harsh Park with a group of kids from her school when a gunman ran up, opened fire on the crowd, then fled in a white car. Pendleton was shot in the back but managed to run a block before she collapsed. She was rushed to the hospital, where she later died.

Pendleton, an excellent student who had never been in trouble with the law, was apparently not the target of the shooting. But it is collateral damage like this in the sickening gun violence that has gripped Chicago and other cities in across America.

“As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy ... He hits the one that hurts the most to lose,” Pendleton's godfather, 36-year-old Damon Stewart, said.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) spoke of Pendleton’s murder during Wednesday's Senate showdown on gun control. He talked about her performance at the inauguration a mere week ago, saying “it was the highlight of her young 15-year-old life."

"Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she’s gone."

More than 500 people were shot and killed in Chicago last year, more than in war-ravaged Afghanistan. This statistic is stunning, especially for the so-called leader of the free world. What's even more alarming is the inaction by our leaders. This is an national crisis, yet it's practically ignored by the Obama administration and Congress.

If the tragedy in Chicago weren't enough, a 6-year-old boy is currently being held hostage in Midland City, Ala., by a gunman who held up the boy's school bus on Tuesday and shot the driver four times, killing him. Local law enforcement and the FBI are trying to rescue the child, who is being held in an underground bunker on the remote property of the 67-year-old gunman. And on Wednesday, as a Senate panel was debating gun control, three people were shot at an office complex in Phoenix; the gunman is still on the loose. [Read more on both cases here.]

Guns flooding our neighborhoods are a problem, but they are not the only problem. Poverty, substandard education and housing, drugs and gangs—these combined societal ills, if left to fester, will breed.

So as our politicians continue to squabble and the powerful leading gun organization in America split hairs with rhetoric like "guns don't kill people, people kill people" or "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," the body count rises. Hey, why should we give up our right to bear every and all kinds of arms (high-capacity ones included) just because it might save a life?