New heroes are recognized

We have always had heroes -- the men and women serving in the military, our sports figures and those serving in our fire and police departments.

New heroes have recently emerged, though they've always been there. They are the unsung heroes serving in their own quiet way, influencing our lives.

I am referring to the teachers and staff members at our schools. Over the years, they have had to deal with disruptive classrooms, school violence, irate parents, budget constraints and ever imposing standards. They have had to cope with those difficulties, all the while trying to teach the most precious asset in parents' lives, our children.

Now, they have taken on a new task by protecting our children from the escalating gun violence happening in our schools and communities. They haven't asked for this role, nor are they trained for it. In most cases, their reactions are spur of the moment and many end up protecting our gifts with their lives.

What a gift to all of us. Thank you, heroes!

David Rohrer

Richmond

Killing someone is life-altering

I own handguns and rifles. As a Green Beret in Vietnam, I know how they work.

Firing a weapon at a human and seeing the result changes you for life. When politicians call for more arms in schools, shopping malls, theaters and public places, the memories -- not only of my buddies who died face down in the muck, but the Vietnamese I killed -- make me weep.

The politicians who are National Rifle Association fanatics sent young men like me to war, to be scarred for life. Do they really think civilians can take aim and shoot a human so easily?

Imagine a crowded movie theater when a crazy person starts to shoot. Twenty other armed people start to shoot at the guy with the gun. The carnage resulting from stray bullets, bad aim and rapid fire makes me shudder. This is going to make you feel safer?

Banning military-style weapons is a no-brainer. Fewer guns and ammunition is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the NRA and its disciples who serve in positions of power are also no-brainers. Shame on them.

Norm Weiss

Orinda

Re-examine other areas for safety

A recent community brief announced a Dec. 15 meeting hosted by the City of El Cerrito to improve safety for residents, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists along Colusa Avenue between Fairmount Avenue and Terrace Drive, and noted similar measures currently being implemented on Arlington Boulevard.

These traffic calming efforts are commendable.

I invite the city to re-examine Richmond Street between Fairmount Avenue and Moeser Lane, a high-traffic corridor where traffic safety risk far surpasses that on Colusa Avenue.

Pedestrians, many of whom are students at numerous local schools, face significant risks crossing the street. Residents, including the elderly and disabled, are imperiled attempting to exit their driveways as speed limits are ignored in this residential neighborhood used by motorists as a "short cut" to avoid San Pablo Avenue traffic lights.

Blind hillcrests on some stretches of Richmond Street are a particular concern. While this issue has been raised with the city on countless occasions, public safety risks remain unaddressed.

Gary Wolinsky

El Cerrito

Nation must stop the gun insanity

It's been rough trying to find quiet time to talk with our 7-year-old about the Connecticut shooting.

We wanted him to know the facts, so he is prepared. How can anyone be prepared for what follows such unthinkable acts of violence against such innocent victims?

Run-of-the-mill gun violence in urban streets kills more people than mass murder. But psychologically the impact feels greater. We must stop the insanity both. But why do we start the conversation about gun control by limiting the ban to assault weapons or multi-bullet magazines? Is the gun lobby really so strong that reformers must bargain against themselves?

As to mental illness, there are medications, understandings and therapies, and many more options now than ever before. Remove the stigma so that mental and physical health are on par for care, access, support and funding. Let's not try to find blame, but rather find the solutions.

If anything good can come out of the tragedy in Connecticut, it can be national reforms in our laws for guns and for mental health.

Evelyn J. Herrera

Oakland