Readers speak out:

CHARLES TOWN – Adam Lanza’s horrifying attack at a school Friday morning left dozens dead in Connecticut and in the Panhandle set off a search for answers as citizens grapple with issues of school safety, gun control and our nation’s approach to mental illness.

The 20-year-old college dropout’s rampage began when he gunned down his mother at their home and continued at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where he used a military-style assault rifle to end the lives of 20 children and six adults in just five minutes before taking his own life as he heard emergency responders arrive on the scene.

On Facebook, we asked Spirit of Jefferson readers what they’re thinking about security measures at our schools, whether our nation’s gun laws ought to be stricter and how to better deal with the mentally ill.

A sampling of our readers’ reactions:

Cat Mulligan Stevens: “Parents and guardians with children that may have a personality disorder really need to do everything they can to stay in tune with that person and to not give them access to guns.”

Melinda Denham Cole: “My children were completely at ease [Monday]. We talked briefly on Friday of their wonderful schools and teachers and how blessed we are to have them and our children in our lives. I will not live in fear or cause my children to do likewise!”

Chrissy Burrows Jacobs:

“My daughter’s school sent home a letter today outlining what they have been doing and will continue to do to protect their students and staff. It also outlined how they were going to handle any questions the students may have regarding the tragedy that occurred. I am thankful the school was proactive in setting parents’ minds at ease as best they can.”

Stephanie Whetzel: “As I get my baby boy dressed for kindergarten at Blue Ridge Elementary, I think of reasons not to send him. He has a cough or he didn’t get enough sleep. But he is ready to go. As I give him a big hug and kiss and he runs to his bus my eyes fill up with tears.

“Blue Ridge had the Sheriff’s Department there this morning along with people making it tough to even enter the school, putting more locks on the doors and locking the very front door. Doing new drills and having the police talk to the students.

“Gun control has nothing to do with it. Personally I think the teachers should be armed and trained. I also think each school should have their own security guards.

“As for mental illnesses … a friend of mine has schizophrenia and he functions just normal because his family cares enough to make sure he gets the help he needs.”

Andy Tucker Sugrue: “We need an immediate conversation on the mental health issues in this country. Families can’t ‘care’ a child out of a mental illness. Some families are exhausted trying to care – and find care – for their mentally challenged child. It’s a very complex issue that deserves a national conversation about how we can accommodate not only the child, but the family who struggles with that child.”

Starla McGaha: “Arming school staff would only make the situation more dangerous. We are not going to solve the problem of violence with more violence. Further, gun laws and tighter security only treats the symptoms. It does not address the root of the problem, which is the attitude of and lack of treatment for mental health in this country.”

Joe Brand: “I’m thinking it is a shame that we think a sign or law will keep our children safe. Laws and signs are a re-enforcement of the social contract that we all agree to abide by as members of society. Those who do not wish to conform to society’s social contract and laws will not abide by the laws and signs we make.

“We as a society need to do a better job of living with and caring for those in our communities. While we seek to understand this tragedy, let us not react by restricting our own liberties and the liberties of those who did no harm. I went out to work this morning just as I always do. I will not live in fear. It has been barely noticed or announced in the media, but there were two additional potential school shootings on Friday that were stopped by people who found out of the plot and reported properly as they should have.

“People can prevent horrible tragedies when they are not perpetrated by a lone wolf. The only thing that can stop the lone wolves is the threat of force in response and not leaving major gathering places defenseless.”

Wanda Kramer: “Gun control has nothing to do with what happened! Regardless of the laws, they will always find a way to get a gun! People need to understand and realize, it’s not the gun that’s killing the people, it’s the person holding it! [On] mental illness – the kids out there that need help should be able to get it for free. If we don’t do something soon, this kind of act is going to continue to happen!

Pat Mesich: “The problem doesn’t lay with gun control or school safety. It is squarely on the shoulders of the media. Each time one of these incidents occur, [the media] gives give the scumbag the notoriety they crave and cause the next waste of human flesh to one-up them. Forget the loser, glorify the heroes.”

Ann Fern: “Many people that suffer from mental illness have no idea that there is anything wrong with them. Those that do may be concerned with the stigma attached to the illness and do not seek help. How many times, after a tragedy, do we hear, ‘He was isolating himself, he was depressed, he was fixated with violent videos,’ etc. We need to be aware when someone in our family, school or neighborhood exhibits these kinds of changes and take action to help before a tragedy occurs – not inform the media of the changes after lives are lost.”

– Compiled by Christine Miller Ford

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