Q. What are you hearing from parents, teachers and community members on these issues?
Ray Wolfenbarger - South Bend Police Detective who was shot three times in 2001 during a traffic stop. He now works in the department's crime lab.
Q. How has the shooting you suffered changed your views, if at all, on the Second Amendment and guns?
A. My views on the Second Amendment and guns have not changed. I feel every taxpaying citizen who is capable and has a clean criminal record should be able to own and carry a firearm if they want to. In my case, the firearm I was shot with was an illegal firearm possessed by an individual who did have a criminal record and no firearm carry permit. As a matter of fact, the firearm was actually that of a relative who was a convicted felon. If you look at the overall picture, the firearm isn't the problem. It took an individual to pick up the gun and pull the trigger to shoot me.
Q. How has what happened to you impacted your life?
A. Every day and in every step I take I have a reminder of what happened. On Dec. 16, 2001, my life, and the lives of my family and friends were changed forever. My dream of being a patrol officer was stripped away.
At first, I was given a 5 percent chance of living (a 95 percent mortality rate). Once it was known that I was going to survive, doctors informed my family and I that I would never walk again, and that I had likely suffered brain damage and would have to use of a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. With the support of my family and extended family, we fought these struggles together.
After spending more than three and a half years in outpatient physical therapy, I walk with a cane. Is it a pretty walk? No, but I am walking. God has blessed my family and me with life. I am here to spend more time with my family, laugh and cry enjoying every day that I wake up still on this Earth.
I thank every single individual who was there and continues to be here for me, my family and friends, from the bottom of my heart.
What would you want lawmakers to consider from your experience in their deliberations of possible changes in the law relating to guns, mental health, etc.?
A. I feel there should be harsher sentencing with individuals who shouldn't be carrying them. Criminals and people with mental health issues should not possess firearms.
Richard Hess - A registered nurse who has practiced in critical care, emergency medicine and disaster response for more than 32 years. Hess is an avid hunter and shooting sports enthusiast.
He is president of Hess Karfomenos & Associates Inc., a medical legal consulting firm located in Middlebury and serving the tri-state area.
Q. In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, discussion of combating such violence has involved issues of mental illness, guns, violence in movies and video games. What, if anything, can we do to make our communities safer?
A.This event highlights two problems that had they been appropriately addressed would have resulted in different outcomes. First, the firearms used in Connecticut were not the property of the shooter. They were purchased legally with appropriate background checks, etc., by the shooter's mother. She apparently failed to secure those weapons, even knowing her son's troubling mental health. It is the personal responsibility of every gun owner to secure their firearms preventing theft and misuse.
Legally owned and secured firearms are not to blame for a majority of violent crimes within our communities. Illegally accessed firearms most certainly are part of the problem.
Disintegration of moral, social, behavioral barriers cannot be ignored. Allowing our youth access to extreme violence via video games, etc., reinforces amoral behaviors and desensitizes them. It reinforces the use of violence at extreme levels without exemplified consequence -- only the rewards of winning a game.
Second, since the early 1980s society has made it more and more difficult to serve the needs of those within our communities with ongoing mental health support.