Mental illness,

•ot guns, is the issue

The shootings in Newtown, Conn., should not be approached primarily as a gun-control issue, but more as a mental-health issue. The shooter and his mother obviously both had mental health problems, yet were able to function "normally" in society without raising red flags.

Adam Lanza should have never been able to access weapons, let alone be taken to the range and taught to shoot. I also place blame with everyone else in the family who wasn't involved enough to recognize the suffering and grave threat this man posed. Time will tell, but I feel as more information is made public it will be clear that this could have been prevented.

We need to help those who suffer from mental-health issues. We do not need to use this horrific tragedy to promote gun control. It's the wrong time to approach that issue when people are so driven by emotion.

We need to focus more on the societal issues that led to this, rather than the gun-control issue, which seems to me a knee-jerk reaction. For the record, I do not own a gun, but I treasure the freedom to do so if I choose.

CRISMAN JESPERSEN

Atlantic City

Recognize causes

of mental illness

Now can we get serious about mental illness and its effects on our society?

By that I mean any of the various brain disorders. This shouldn't be a taboo subject. Most people who have family members with serious mental illness don't even mention it because no one wants to hear about it. There are still people who believe mental illness is caused by moral weakness, lifestyle or family. We need to open up a dialogue so that everyone will recognize this as a brain disorder caused by chemical imbalances, not the work of the devil. We need to accept that mental illness can happen to anyone.

Admittedly there are no easy answers. Even those who work with people with mental illness don't really know what to do. They are primarily trying to keep them and others around them safe. The treatment is often a pill or a handful of pills, but there is no guarantee that any of the medications will help. It's pretty much trial and error.

Many forms of cancer are becoming a chronic illness instead of a fatal disease because we are learning more about the chemistry of the body. Mental illness needs the same attention.

And please, characterizing some of these people as "evil" is detestable. We don't live in the Dark Ages anymore. We need to embrace all that medicine and science has added to our lives in the last 100 years.

DAVID OLDIS

Linwood

Better gun laws

will protect us all

So far this year, more people have been killed in Atlantic County by guns than were killed in Newtown, Conn. But where is the righteous passion for change?

You would think that the wanton destruction of human life in our own backyard would raise our collective consciousness, but it has not. Atlantic City, Pleasantville and parts of Cumberland County where most of the killings have taken place seem remote to some people in this region, but geographically and spiritually they aren't.

A killing in this community is a loss to us all and a waste of human potential. It's also a potent message to the world that our vital tourist region is not safe. Gun violence and murder clearly pain the souls of our families and community ... and our pocketbooks.

The people in this community seem disconnected at times by social class and race, but all of us are connected to the senseless loss of life by guns. As we all share the grief and sadness at what happened in Newtown, let us finally realize that common-sense gun regulations protect our community and help it prosper.

Let us empower ourselves and do at least one thing:

Call Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, and tell him we want common-sense gun regulations to protect our children and families here in South Jersey and nationwide.

MARK LOVETT

Ventnor

Man shot by police

should have stopped

Regarding the Dec. 18 story, "A.C. police shoot, kill suspect after chase":

Let's see. Police confront two men with guns and order them to stop and put down their weapons. One does and is taken into custody without incident. The other one runs and gets shot. Seems to me that the cause of the shooting is the failure by the second man to obey the officers' peaceful solution to the problem.

I also can't help but notice how many eyewitnesses there were to this incident, yet when the shootings involve anyone other than a police officer, no one sees anything.

The residents in this area should be happy that there are men brave enough to be police officers in this Wild West town! I can't believe that this is the first suspect shot and killed by Atlantic City police since 1989.

DON BROWN

Somers Point

Take real action

to protect children

In light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, I submit the following proposals:

Immediately halt the production and importation of all assault-rifle magazines and bullets, thereby eventually rendering existing assault rifles useless. Assault rifles should be available to military personnel only. Also, halt production and importation of ammo for all guns, eventually rendering them useless as well.

Require thorough background checks for every gun sale, so no gun is sold to anyone who should not own one. Require registration of all guns and a background review of all gun owners semi-annually. Expand gun buy-back programs as well.

Arrange for early detection of psychological issues that may evolve into serious mental illnesses. Mandate appropriate funding for this task and the necessary follow-up treatment.

Increase security at schools. Review all emergency procedures and practice with first responders regularly. How about a guarded structure just outside the school entrance for screening visitors before they even enter the school? Depending upon the school, an armed officer on patrol inside could be considered.

Re-emphasize on a national level the importance of family, two-parent homes and talking, praying and worshiping with our children, taking our responsibility as adult role models much more seriously and letting children know how very much they are loved.

Rekindle dialogue on traits such as integrity, civility, kindness, considerateness, compassion, with a special emphasis on citizenship and the fact that, yes, we are a good and caring people.

Perhaps after the above strategies are incorporated, we can truly say that we do treat our children as our most precious resource and protect them with the fervor they deserve.

CARMINE C. BONANNI JR.

Margate

Carmine C. Bonanni Jr is the former Ventnor school superintendent.