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O'NEIL OFF DEADLINE -- Our cries for gun control are premature

When I was a young student – back when I had to walk two miles with no shoes in the winter, no wait, that was my dad. Well, back when I was a young student, I did walk to school – sometimes I took the bus – but always I, and my fellow students, were greeted by Mr. Donnelly, the principal.

Mr. Donnelly always smiled – even if you were late. He always looked happy – even if he was mad. The only way you could tell if he was mad was if he pointed to his office and motioned you to sit in the uncomfortable bench. While serving in the military in Vietnam, Mr. Donnelly was shot in the face, leaving him with permanent muscle damage in his face. This injury resulted in his perma-grin and a lot of confusion in the minds of his precious little charges.

This story was as close as I, and the majority of my elementary school classmates, got to a gun.

Today we live in a different world. Beginning very soon, elementary school students in Williamson County, will be greeted by someone else, in addition to their principal. They will likely see the face of a Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputy. In the wake of the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. city and county officials acted swiftly to put the measures in place to make sure the schools in Franklin and Williamson County are safe for our children to attend. For this we can all be very grateful.

As our neighboring counties struggle to find the funding to place School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools, we are comforted in the fact that our leaders took swift action … and that we can afford it. After all, these are our children, and “there, but for the grace of God…”

School systems across the nation are considering this very action now to keep our children safe. Advocates and opponents are voicing their opinions on the presence of guns in schools, the potential of arming teachers and other issues relating to guns. But who is looking what fueled the event in that small Connecticut town? You can argue about the relevance of guns all day long, but who among us is addressing the issue of mental health in this country?

Across the nation, funding for programs in the mental health arena are being cut first and with a wide swath. We can put a band-aid on the presenting problems – school shootings, mall shootings, movie theatre shootings – by placing law enforcement officials in the those scenarios, but the truth is, let’s take a look at the state of mind of the individuals who are responsible for these actions and let’s get them some help. Let’s start at the core and address the problem there.

Let’s hear the voices of those in the mental health industry. Let’s listen as they teach us the signs to recognize when a person is crying out for help. Let’s over-react instead of let it slide when someone is crying out for attention. Let’s begin to address the issues of those who need the attention, before their story becomes not only their epitaph, but the final voice of their victims. Here’s an idea, instead of funding gun control measures, put the money back into the mental health programs and get help to those who need it. 


Donna O’Neil is the managing editor of the Williamson Herald. She can be reached at



Posted on: 1/9/2013


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