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.

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."

Patricia Sabato January 04, 2013 at 06:31 PM
I am an advocate certified under the CT General Assembly and a member of Ablechild.org..check out their facebook page. I know all too well about the power of Big Pharma. I am putting my message out here to try to wake up and enlighten those who are lost in the dark. I live right here in the heart of Sandyhook and now that this crisis has happened so very close to me, I must at least create dialogue and discussion about something important that no one else is mentioning or questioning.
Paul Alexander January 04, 2013 at 06:34 PM
I applaud you for that Patricia, and I hope you succeed. Big Pharma and Big Gun Control will keep ANY discussion of the drug angle from EVER starting.
Gail Williams January 06, 2013 at 07:57 PM
I am a retired public school teacher and grandmother to a child with a genetic syndrome. We have watched in horror the gun violence by "angry/and or ill" young people. Having a grandson with special needs has given us a viewpoint we would not have had. Some of these kids, such as Adam Lanza, have been in regular schools, as is my grandson. We have a LONG ways to go in teaching our children that because a child is "different", can't keep up with them physically, mentally or socially doesn't mean it is okay to look at them and treat them as though they have three heads. It doesn't take these children long to know that because they don't march to the same drum as most of their classmates, it makes them "less than". They are not included in activities, ignored socially and treated cruelly. I have seen the tears and the lack of understanding since there is nothing these children can do to make themselves "normal". Any parent who takes the time to teach a child to love and include--really include--the child who through no fault of his own is "different", first of all makes their child a better person and contributes to the special child perhaps growing up to believe that maybe there is a place for him where he can be accepted and loved. I am not advocating that would solve all the issues we need to discuss but can guarantee it would give the "special" needs kids a different outlook and perhaps make us all better people.
David January 07, 2013 at 04:30 AM
These are all great positive views I hope the new committee / board can use these views, opinions and strong concerns in a meaningful way.... and that more of the wonderful, bright caring minds continue to stay involved and others get involved. -coming from as a proud but somewhat scared father of three kindergarten and first graders here in Newtown!
Greg Burns January 07, 2013 at 04:59 AM
If you are not prepared to defend and fight against violence when it occurs and wherever it occurs, you will likely become a victim. Evil men will prevail against good men if the good are not prepared, ready and willing to stand against them and to do what is necessary to stop them. When violence comes to our feet only you and I will be there. If you are not ready to fight, you better pray I am there and ready. The police will not be there, just you and me.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »