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Editor's note: Following the mass killings of 20 children and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, said school employees should be armed in order to provide an immediate defense in the event of similar attacks. His proposal prompted an outpouring of letters.

Fact is, if the Connecticut principal had been armed, she could have shot the attacker before he killed her and more little kids. The school employees have no way to protect themselves from an attacker that is armed. — J. Engle, Jacksonville

The horrible events of Friday the 14th are etched upon our hearts. Children were murdered in a place that students and parents considered safe. How do we combat these acts of violence upon innocents?

It has been suggested that arming the teachers, so that they might have a shootout with whoever may invade the classroom, would be a good idea.

The Second Amendment is a double-edged sword. The killer used the right to bear arms and it went terribly wrong. How can we be sure that a gun in the classroom won't go terribly wrong as well? The only workable and sane solution is to keep guns out of the school. We need to stop unauthorized people at the door.

If guns are put in the hands of teachers, what will we tell the children? Are they just to accept that a teacher with a gun goes along with their books and pencils? Are we as responsible people to accept the fact that along with reading, writing and math, children are being taught the subliminal lesson: armed and dangerous? — Carol Hayes, Medford

Finally we have an elected official who is in touch with the real world and is willing to stand up and say it like it really is, common sense instead of political correctness.

Tragedies, like the massacre in Connecticut, are caused by evil and mentally disturbed individuals, and not by guns. Those who want to disarm law-abiding citizens are only turning us into defenseless sheep. Those of us who live in the real world know the best defense against an evil person with a gun is a good person with a gun.

Running and hiding under a desk most often is not the best defense. Most seasoned police officers know this. It is only the politically correct police administrators who refuse to acknowledge this. The police are doing the best job they can, but when seconds count the police are minutes away.

School teachers in Israel carry handguns. It seems to work for them. Israel is not a country of sheep. My family wants a level playing field where we can at least have a fighting chance to defend ourselves and to survive a deadly encounter. — Bob McKean, Phoenix

Along with all Americans, I am still in shock and beyond saddened by the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

So, I was disheartened to see the headline in the Mail Tribune quoting Rep. Richardson calling for arming school personnel. The tragedy was not even 24 hours old, and instead of mourning the loss of innocent lives, heroic children and school personnel, the newspaper decided to lead off with the sub-headline that these tragedies could have been stopped and that school personnel had failed to protect their children.

As an elected official, Rep. Richardson decided to be reactive instead of proactive in his response. This is not a school security problem. The access of ordinary citizens to semi-automatic assault weapons, coupled with what appears to be mentally ill shooters is the real problem. The proactive response from Richardson would have been a discussion about the treatment of mental illness and a call to ban assault-type weapons.

Thank you to Dr. Long and Chief George for asserting that only law enforcement personnel are specifically trained for this type of tragedy and that the job of teachers in this type of situation is to keep their students and themselves safe. — Cathy Murphy, Medford

Representative Richardson's chest-thumping statement that if he had been a teacher or principal and properly armed "most of the murdered children (in Connecticut) would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide" is both pathetic and appalling.

Publicly placing oneself as an action hero in a fantasy-revenge scenario should shame any thinking adult. Further, only the untrained would make such guarantees when a heavily armed, homicidal person is determined to kill as many persons as possible. The police, who actually know what they are doing, would never make such a statement.

Representative Richardson proposes arming three adults in each school. Most homicidal incidents take place in minutes or less. Do the school personnel engage in constant patrols? Do they pack heat all day long? How much training would they receive and how would that detract from time teaching children?

As a gun owner, but not a gun worshiper, I strongly believe that there are actions that we can take to lower the risk of such violence, including the banning of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

Senator Richardson would do well to stop the macho posturing and concentrate on appropriate policies to limit gun violence. — Ken Chapman, Applegate

It is our first responsibility to protect the eyes, ears, and innocence of our children. With these past tragic events going on, it's more important than ever to protect our children from the graphic pictures, sounds, and emotions that affected us all. We do have the choice of can-do power.

Steer our children away from any source that would otherwise hurt their welfare. Please keep their focus on the Spirit of Christmas joy and love, as is their right to embrace.

For the rest of us, we can do something and that is not to respond to the fears as that will only feed it. Remember, they are listening and watching you as their guardians first. How you choose to react or respond will make the difference.

For us, we will choose to honor those lost with prayers and faith! God bless us all. — Patricia Grissom, Medford

The Newtown murders bring up memories of my own unique parenting experience. I raised a child with unrecognized schizophrenia. No professional we consulted had the right answers. As his brain matured, everything deteriorated.

Of course he could have become a shooter. He did become a severely depressed, delusional and schizophrenic, who had a growing love for guns and rebellion. I realized that he would be more apt to use the gun on himself rather than others— also a nightmare.

My son is now 39, matured and maturing. I'm very proud of him and his ability to handle his medication-resistant disorder. He suffers every day. I live in great regret.

Withdrawn, chronically sad, children who develop hypervigilent stare and fail to socialize are displaying the hallmarks of a desperate mind, a mind that could turn to guns and violence. Why are we not recognizing this more frequently? What are our school mental health professionals doing, if not this?

I feel it is a reflection of ignorance and a troubled connection between parents and children, overburdened school professionals and a flourishing culture of greed and violence in the national consciousness. — Katherine Dettrick, Talent

Rep. Richardson proposed a reasoned, common-sense deterrent to the slaughter of children at school. Mr. Richardson trusts his constituents to do the right thing at the right time. The spokesmen for our state and national establishments, Superintendent Phil Long and police Chief Tim George, whether their personal opinions or not, voice government's and the anti-gun establishment's vehement opposition to gun ownership by law-abiding citizens, for any reason, even apparently, the saving of young lives.

Both Mr. Long and Mr. George cite lockdown procedures, security cameras, immediate response by the police as an answer to the problem. I believe all these safeguards were in place at the Sandy Hook school. Unarmed citizens in confined large numbers will always be easy prey for the killer. The police cannot protect them. They will rush to find dead bodies. School superintendents cannot protect their children with procedures and police phone numbers. On-site deterrents and only on-site deterrents will protect our children. That means trained armed personnel. You are correct Rep. Richardson. — Kenneth Mak, Medford

The atrocity in Newtown, Conn. is nearly as much a product of a deranged mind as it is a product of television. The constant barrage of pictures of the madman and the extreme coverage on screen assures future mentally deranged people a strong incentive for this kind of act. It won't be cured by gun control ever. It needs to be a reduction in the posthumous publicity which promotes these atrocious events.

It's time for the television networks to accept the fact that their action is a promoter of these evil madmen. — Paul Westcott, Medford

Representative Dennis Richardson nailed it. Had well-trained, armed school staff been present, many, if not all of the children could have been spared. Superintendant Long's passive remedy, to "focus their efforts on getting children to safety if a shooting occurs" amounts to settling for status quo — not good enough.

Shouldn't our school children be afforded the same level of protection as other segments of our society, especially in this corrupt culture we live in? Obviously the school district can barely afford retaining current staffing levels, let alone contract with law enforcement or security agencies. I want to believe enough existing staff would aspire to step up and actively oppose the increasing threat of this type of tragedy.

Furthermore, if these cowardly, sick individuals understood that such a deterrent was in place, it would absolutely make them think twice before attempting to victimize an otherwise vulnerable and defenseless institution. Considering that their rampage would be met with opposition would naturally cause them to question their success, and make an attack much less likely. Make sense?

Whoever said "the best offense is a good defense" understood this. Consequences, or more copycats — which will it be? — Mark Giuntini, Medford

Another mass killing. Maybe now there will be an intelligent national discussion about guns. One hopes there will also be a thorough analysis of the issues involved.

The US Supreme Court has spoken on the Second Amendment. Like it or not, we have to live with its decision. Citizens have the right to keep and bear arms.

Other than use for hunting and target practice, protecting one's family is a common claim of most gun owners. To me, protection and self defense imply readiness, an ability to react to danger. However, the Second Amendment does not give us the right to use guns proactively and offensively, to storm into a theater, shopping mall or an elementary school to purposely kill people.

In an intelligent discussion on guns, we also need to address our inadequate mental health systems that diagnose and treat those who should not have access to guns, insist the film industry limits its production of movies that glorify gun violence, and resist the powerful gun lobby that too zealously promotes unrestricted and unregulated use of guns.

The main issue lies not in the arsenal we might keep at home, but in how and where guns are used. — Dennis Rasmussen, Rogue River

I was most displeased to open my paper this morning and read the top headline's most insensitive comment from Rep. Dennis Richardson regarding the Connecticut tragedy. I hope he will issue an apology to that community. We certainly don't need the type of irresponsible action that he advocated. Surely better solutions are available that arming more people. — Marita Holder, Medford