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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.

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."

Lucia January 05, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Part I: We may never know what was wrong with Adam Lanza and certainly something was definitely wrong for him to brutally murder 20 children and eight adults, including his mother and himself. We know that Lanza had a "developmental disorder," and several of his classmates said they were told he had Asperger's Syndrome. That would match his brother Ryan's description of Adam as "somewhat autistic" and troubled by "personality disorder." Well, that could be anything from antisocial personality disorder — a.k.a. the thing that makes psychopaths psychopathic — to schizoid personality disorder. In any case, it appears that Adam Lanza suffered from mental illness, like many of the mass shooters in America before him. And it's inevitable that our nation is gearing up for a serious conversation about mental health and gun control. Let's not forget that the guns he used were legal, that his mother thought it was a good idea to keep them around whether she was in denial or just oblivious to her son's psychosis.
Lucia January 05, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Part II: Mental health is a deeply stigmatized topic in the United States. We've come a long way since the days that the mentally ill were treated like animals, though. The days of straight-jackets and lobotomies are behind us, but it's not really clear where we go from here. One suggestion that's been floated in the days since the shooting in Newtown is better funding for mental health care system. Great idea! Mental health advocacy groups have been saying this for decades, and when it looked like we might be making process a few years ago, the recession hit, setting efforts back significantly. Mental health is expensive. It's hard to find. Anything we can do to make it cheaper and easier would be a tremendous improvement for everyone. Instead of blaming this abhorrent act on the gun, the mental health of the shooter and the ambivalence of his mother should be addressed. There is no easy answer.
Molly Louis January 05, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Once your child reaches the age of 18, a parent is no longer legally able to make any doctors appointments for that child. I have a family friend who has a child who is 19. This child is having major mental health issues. He is not a problem to society, but to himself. His mother and father are unable to get him the mental health care he needs, due to his age. They cannot even make an appointment, without the child's approval. The child does not feel he needs care...he clearly does. Parents of children who are over the age of 18 are legally tied to the amount of medical support they can supply to their child. Once over 18, the child cannot be forced to go to therapy or any type of needed medical treatment. If the child does go for medical treatment, unless the child gives permission, the doctor will not discuss anything with the parents. But...the medical bills continues to come to the parent!
Amy Lynn January 05, 2013 at 05:32 PM
I saw a movie once where only the police and military had guns.........
Amy Lynn January 05, 2013 at 05:34 PM
I saw a movie once where only the police and military had guns.........http://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/you-betcha-2/
Mary Davis January 05, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Amy: Instead of a link to a photo.. I just posted the photo you are referring to in the photos section of this story. The image is quite graphic and upsetting.. as would be expected when a government has muscle power over the people to do whatever it wants.
Dina Easton January 06, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I think Diane Feinstein wants gun control like China does - look at the civil rights there
Steven DeVaux January 06, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Dina, NOW your talkin'! Did you see the new group, 2 Million Hunters for guns? Non-sexists and don't care about your marital status unlike the 1 Million Moms.
Maxx Hawke January 06, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Molly, parents are not helpless in their ability to cope with mentally ill "adult" children. The while privacy laws are an obstacle to parents, there are other means for an adult child - who poses a harm to themselves or others, to be remanded into treatment. In Connecticut, there are a range of legal options available, from voluntary conservatorship to commitment. Most often, parents and others are unaware of the range of resource that are available to support them in crisis and during ongoing recovery of their child. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is an excellent resource for concerned parents, family, friends and the public: http://www.nami.org As is the Connecticut Dept of Mental Health: http://www.ct.gov/dmhas
Steven DeVaux January 06, 2013 at 07:26 PM
That would mean that every child who was a drug abuser, and obviously posing harm to themselves could be forceably remanded into treatment (aka involuntary confinement)? Germany did that in the 1930's.
Michael Gianfranceschi January 06, 2013 at 10:17 PM
regarding the photos above I would be willing to bet that abortion kills even more than tobacco..... think about it.....
Steven DeVaux January 07, 2013 at 10:32 AM
When violence is sanctioned by the government itself, the first laws that should be passed on violence need to go after itself. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/iowa-prison-lonely-battle-sex-movies-18148033

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