Gun Control, School Safety, Mental Illness Focus of New State Panel

In response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Connecticut is convening a panel of experts to explore all necessary facets of trying to prevent future tragedies.

HARTFORD -- A panel of experts appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been tasked with making recommendations about how to improve public safety in Connecticut, particularly in schools.

The committee, which will be led by second-term Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, will also look at current policies and see if changes are warranted in the areas of mental health treatment and gun violence prevention.

The announcement was Malloy's first discussion about how the state would react to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was held outside his office at the State Capitol in Hartford Thursday, just shy of three weeks since the massacre on Dec. 14 when 20 children and six adults were shot and killed by a lone gunman who ultimately took his own life.

“Shortly after the initial horror and the immediate grief over what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School...there was one question on the lips of many of our residents: How do we make sure this never happens again?" Malloy said.

"It’s the right question," he continued, "even as we recognize that despite our best efforts, bad things will happen. We don’t yet know the underlying cause behind this tragedy, and we probably never will (he said the shooter did not leave a note). But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. I want the commission to have the ability to study every detail, so they can help craft meaningful legislative and policy changes.”

The commission, he said, will look for ways to "make sure our gun laws are as tight as they are reasonable, that our mental health system can reach those that need its help, and that our law enforcement has the tools it needs to protect public safety, particularly in our schools.”

He also discussed the need to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

The commission, which must present an initial report to Malloy by March 15 — in time for consideration during the regular session of the General Assembly — will consist of experts in various areas, including education, mental health, law enforcement and emergency response.

Jackson is the only person who had been announced as a committee member as of Thursday. All told, there will be 15 people on the committee; Malloy has reached out to several people and is awaiting their response.

Malloy said he hopes Connecticut can be a model for the rest of the nation in terms of how to address gun control issues. Still, he said, the state cannot work alone.

"It's still far too easy to buy guns in some states and transport them to our state," he said. "We need Washington to get its act together so that they can put together a reasonable national gun policy that protects the citizens of our state and our nation. I am thankful, therefore, that President Obama has gotten this conversation started, and I'm committed to do all I can to allow this conversation to proceed." 

Malloy, a longtime advocate for stricter gun control laws, spent much of his time during Thursday's news conference speaking about that very issue. The gun control debate will clearly be one of the commission's main focal points.

The governor said that if the national Brady Act had not been allowed to expire by the U.S. Congress, then 30-round clips would still be illegal, and, perhaps, Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza may not have had access to them.

"Look, these aren't used to hunt deer," he said of assault weapons. "You don't need 30-round clips to go hunting. You don't need 30-round clips to honor the constitution of the United States. And I think it's time we have a realistic discussion about the weapons that are being used time and time again in these mass causality situations. I mean it would be stupid not to have that conversation."

Asked if there should be guards in every school, and, if so, whether they should be armed, Malloy said: "I hope not."

"...But there is a reason we have the commission and that is to look at these issues, and ultimately that will be a local decision, but we will take a balanced approach and balanced look at that for final determination," he said. "But with all the needs, you would hope that is not one of the needs. But if it is, we will take a look at it."

Jackson said he agrees with much of the governor's stance on gun control, but that he expects to hear all sides of the issue.

"I think one of the reasons the governor chose me is I have the ability to separate myself emotionally" and look at the facts of the issue, Jackson said.

Jackson became somewhat emotional when a reporter asked if he had time to dedicate to the panel while simultaneously running a large city. Jackson admitted he is busy, but said the panel charge is a great one. 

"My son is in first grade, and this affects us all," he said. "This is the most important thing I can be doing right now."

Robert Williams January 03, 2013 at 10:23 PM
"He also discussed the need to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness." He should also work to remove the stigma surrounding legal, law abiding gun owners.
xxxoxox January 04, 2013 at 01:03 AM
That stigma would largely be eliminated if the NRA would stop promoting and fueling culturally paranoid, self-fullfilling propaganda about nafarious socialists scheming to confiscate all guns. Beyond the collusion with gun manufacturers and gun culture peddlars who continually profit from this delusional posture, they also create a climate where the wrong people seek ever more dangerous, militaristic firepower to "protect" themselves from this dubious, manufactured boogeyman. The NRA has become "gun nut" central - protecting the rights of those with pseudo-erotic affection for weapons of war rather than the average person seeking quiet personal and family protection. Kepp them afraid and they are easy to control.
Jennifer Kozek January 04, 2013 at 03:32 AM
Please sign this petition if you agree and pass it on. I have contacted Mayor Jackson and Governor Malloy. http://www.change.org/petitions/school-safety-mandate-steel-doors-swipe-cards-panic-buttons-and-taser-guns-in-schools
Bonnie January 04, 2013 at 12:50 PM
It is in the constitution that those who QUALIFY have the right to bare arms... With that said, I don't think it's right to take that right away from those of us that are responsible. Why can't a change be made that says when you apply for your gun permit the state and federal authorities also do a background check on those members of your family that still live with you, this means a mental health background check? Don't take our rights away from all of us!! I (for the time being) have the right to protect myself and family, there's been shootings in malls and movie theaters and I feel much safer when I'm protected against crazy nut jobs. Maybe I don't have a chance in hell but at least I'm going to fight trying. As for our schools, the town needs to check the mental status of the residents within a 5--10 mile radius from the school. There's a sex offender website, why isn't there a way to check the residents in our town. Yes I understand the privacy act but law enforcement should have the means to check out people. We need some change and we can't leave it up to government to make the decision how they're going to change our lives.
Dave January 04, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Hopefully the commission will include individuals that actually use and carry weapons,hunters, and sportsmen. People that are posting should have experience with guns otherwise they are really don't know what they are talking about. How many times do the people working with the mentally ill say to themselves "That person real;y should not be out on the street among us, some day they are going to snap" and cannot do anything about it? That should;d be the main topic for discussion. Let's face it would anyone in their right mind do what these lunatics (and they are lunatics) did? Connecticut has one of the strictest gun control bans in the country and this tragedy happened. All people that have permits to carry have gone through training and background checks from the FBI. There is no need for more laws that don't work.
Arek Wenta January 04, 2013 at 04:15 PM
The problem I have with this is that the firearms weren't his. He didn't go through the process. So making it more difficult for the law abiding gun owners wouldn't have changed anything. This tragedy could have been committed with a handgun or even a 10/22. I want to know how he gained access to them. The laws that should really be changed are the ones saying how firearms should be stored. Those cable and trigger locks can be defeated with a screwdriver or pliers in about 10 seconds. Sadly they use tragedies like this one to their advantage to try and fulfill their agendas. Not much we can do but sit, wait, and see what happens.
Dave January 04, 2013 at 09:48 PM
as there is no official report on how he got them, you are right we will have to wait and see. All we know is he stole them from his mother after he murdered her. She may have had them locked in a place he did not have access to. Remember he also stole her car to get to the school. Like I said he was a lunatic.
Arek Wenta January 05, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Stealing a car from your house shouldn't be too hard. I just think if you know there is someone in your house who is mentally ill you should extra precautions. If you choose to possess firearms in a house with somebody who is potentially unstable you should be doing everything possible to make them inaccessible. If they were in a PROPER gun safe, it might have been a different story. That is speculation because we don't know where they were. But he couldn't open one of those safes no matter how determined he was. At the very least the noise would draw a considerable amount of attention.
Roc January 06, 2013 at 02:49 AM
"A Panel of experts" and Obama started the discussion? I don't think so. First, politicians aren't experts, they are thieves. Second, Adam Lanza started the discussion. These politicians are dumb asses and have no clue.


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