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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."

Michelle Ku January 04, 2013 at 01:10 AM
It's interesting that the Governor is interested in mental health NOW. A month ago, he was making rescissions to make up for the $415 million budget deficit that included Mental Health Center (a cut of $433,286), Grants for Substance Abuse Services (a cut of $1,246,477), grants for Mental Health Services (a cut of $3,823,794) and funding for Employment Opportunities for those with mental illness or substance abuse problems (a cut of $523,504), funding for staff at the Department of Mental Health and Abdication Services, $739,682 for housing programs for clients served by the mental health agency and $846,304 in other managed services for those with mental health or addiction problems. I realize difficult decisions have to be made to make up for the budget deficit, but you can't have it both ways.
Linda Davis January 04, 2013 at 02:36 AM
I agree that allocation of funding is a difficult issue. It becomes a matter of public priorities. What can we do to make this priority higher than capitalism's excesses? It means we, as the public, have to make a loud noise about our beliefs about priorities! What will "YOU" do? "Only YOU can end the violence" (coppyright).
Vincent January 04, 2013 at 01:06 PM
There needs to be some level of accountablity on the parts of the families and the medical porfessionals that knowingly allow people with mental disabilities/issues who have mean spirited to violent tendencies to walk among us and live in homes that have guns, especially those that are supposed to be on special medication. I know the law states that they have the right to live freely among us and that it cannot force them to take their medication. We the rest of the population also have the right to walk freely without fear of being attacked. I feel that some new laws based on the laws towards parents in regard to their children's actions. I feel a database can be established accessable only to law enforcement so that people with mental illinesses with violent tendencies must be registered, if they attempt to buy a gun the police get notified. Those needing medication to allow them to function in society should be registerd and kept track of & drug tested, if the proper level of medication is not found in them they are to be home sequestered or hospitilized until medication is administered & a medical examination determins they are fit to return to society. Families and Medical professonals that refuse to regester the people with mental issues of the violent nature should be held accountable for the actions. If they have guns they should be locked up or removed. Guns don't kill People do. Political correctness had also led to some of these problems.
Michael Shea January 04, 2013 at 01:50 PM
There needs to be a level of accountability with our political leaders. The Brady act had nothing to do with large capacity magazines and it would have not hindered Nancy Lanza's firearm purchases at all. Connecticut has an "assault weapon" ban in place. It is a poorly written and ineffective law that did not cover the Lanza rifle. None of the new laws proposed would have affected the Lanza guns either. The politicians are just exploiting people's grief and I find it sickening. Furthermore no one at all seems to have any concrete information on Adam Lanza's mental health. We do know that his mother had the means to get him therapy and psychiatric help. Did she do so?
Mom of two January 04, 2013 at 01:56 PM
If I hear that "guns don't kill people, people do" one more time....it's time to come up with something new. Mental illness is surely a major cause to why these things happen, but it has to be so difficult to determine who may be at risk to cause such violence. The ONLY way to make sure this doesn't happen is that there is no easy access to these ridiculous weapons that have no business being in the hands of ordinary citizens!
Da Face! January 04, 2013 at 02:00 PM
Amen!
David Shugarts January 04, 2013 at 03:39 PM
There is a small error in this article. Gov. Malloy was not referring to the Brady Act, which has not expired. He was referring to the federal ban on assault weapons, which was enacted in 1994 and expired in 2004. The Brady Act is about background checks. The assault weapons ban covered those weapons as well as large-capacity magazines.
Paul Alexander January 04, 2013 at 04:15 PM
I have trust issues with the Good Gov...as I do with all people whose words and actions are not congruent. He speaks about a balanced evaluation of the issues… “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.”” …then goes off about how bad guns and high capacity mags are all while he defunds mental health initiatives in the state. I hope the Good Guv means what he says THIS time and is not just paying lip service to all the other issues related to this tragedy while he actually spends the bulk of his time and the states limited resources grabbing guns. Connecticut has the 5th toughest anti-gun legislation on the books. I suppose Malloy can go for #1 and try to outdo California. But when you have the 5th toughest gun laws and that couldn’t stop an obviously troubled and determined shooter, perhaps the Good Guv should be focusing more on the mental health issues. PS...Guns don't kill people, people do.
Patricia Sabato January 04, 2013 at 06:01 PM
"Mean spirited and violent tendencies" you say. Sometimes these come from the mind altering prescription drugs the Dr. ordered. Why does Adam's Dr. not step up?He was labeled with a "mental illness", surely he must have had a Psychiatrist . Do the research. Fourteen of the past school shooters were on psych meds . It is good that we have focus on gun control, but I also believe there needs to be a federal investigation on the correlation between these dangerous drugs and violent acts and killings.
Paul Alexander January 04, 2013 at 06:11 PM
"I also believe there needs to be a federal investigation on the correlation between these dangerous drugs and violent acts and killings." Great idea Patricia. I mean it. BUT, for those of you who think the gun lobby is powerful...you aint seen nothing until you see the extent that the prescription drug manufacturers lobby will go to defend THIER rice bowl. And Congress knows it. Oh, and the Congress Critters sure aint gonna risk all the drug manufacturers campaign contributions. NO ONE will touch the prescription Drug Manufacturers. No investigation. No blame. We’ll never even know what Lanza was on thanks to HIPPA.
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.

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