State Representative DebraLee Hovey (R-112) today announced what she considers to be her top priorities heading into the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly following the tragic murder of twenty children and six administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14, 2012.
"As an educator and a legislator I have put a great deal of thought into what the response to this tragedy should be," said Hovey. "In my mind the emotional and psychological impact of this event is so great that it will require a great deal of time and consideration to arrive at decisions that will make meaningful and helpful change. Toward that goal, I thought it was important to announce what I am considering as a part of the public dialogue that will get us working toward those solutions."
Hovey noted that the State of Connecticut already has some of the strictest gun laws and despite that, this devastating act still took place. There needs to be an examination of weapons such as the Bushmaster .223, and large magazine clips such as the thirty-round type used by the attacker in Sandy Hook.
"The purpose of civilian use of weapons such as this, and the availability of large-capacity clips are questions I currently wonder about," said Hovey. "Can we preserve Second Amendment rights for the more than 98% of lawful gun owners who are responsible, while installing appropriate limits against those most likely to abuse gun ownership and those who are a risk? I think we can. But the problems that have led us to the Newtown tragedy are not problems with guns alone."
Recognition of mental health problems, proper prevention and treatment are also critical elements to addressing this issue, as is the role of violent video games and the impact they may have on those with mental health problems.
Hovey outlined an immediate action plan which includes the following:
1. Ask the state's Congressional delegation to look into the violent video game industry and examine disclaimers on these games. Request that they introduce legislation requiring that all games have disclaimers about the gun violence and use of guns as toys. Along with that action I believe that each game should be required to have a time out in action after a 40 minute period of play when the game has a mandatory shut off for a 10 minute break.
2. Just as there is a fund from the gambling industry that goes toward prevention, Hovey said there needs to be a fund from the gaming industry that would be designated for psychological support and national public service warnings about what to do if a parent believes their child has developed an over-dependence to gaming, or is seeing aggressive behavior they believe is related to gaming.
3. There should be a national task force organized from top experts in child and adolescent violence to determine further action for prevention. Rep. Hovey has sent a letter to President Obama asking him to initiate this task force.
4. A State task force should be convened to discuss all aspects of the Sandy Hook tragedy and to make recommendations for legislation or social policy. This task force should investigate the issues around guns, assault weapons, and ammunition, loopholes in our present laws, mental health issues, psychological issues around violence and youth, school safety and policy.
Hovey said she looked forward to addressing these and other issues with the General Assembly and the Governor, who also took time to outline some of his priorities in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.
The regular 2013 session of the state legislature convenes on Wednesday, January 9th.