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Malloy panel to tackle school shooting issues

By Johanna Somers

Publication: theday.com

Published January 03. 2013 1:00PM   Updated January 04. 2013 3:27PM
Experts to focus on security, state's gun laws, mental health access

Hartford — Unwilling to wait for federal action, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday the formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a panel that will review state gun policy and make recommendations on school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention.

"The commission will look for ways to make sure our gun laws are as tight as they need to be, that our mental health system can reach those who are in need of our help and that our law enforcement agency has the tools that they need to protect public safety, in particular in our schools," Malloy said.

Mayor Scott Jackson of Hamden will lead the commission. He served on the Two Storm Panel that evaluated the state's approach to natural disaster prevention and impact mitigation.

"This is a massive project with short timelines," Jackson said.

School security, including capital expenditure and human resources, has to be examined along with mental health issues and social isolation, Jackson said. On top of that, the panel must address guns and ammunition, he said.

The commission's initial report will be due March 15, in time for consideration during the regular session of the General Assembly, Malloy said.

"I look forward to working with the legislature on this issue," he said. "I have had many conversations with members of both parties. I know there is much we already agree on, and we will work together to make our state a model for the rest of the nation."

Experts in law enforcement, mental health, school safety, public safety and education have been asked to join and are expected to respond in the coming days.

But, Malloy said, Connecticut can not address these issues alone.

"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 of our nation," Malloy said. "I am thankful, therefore, that President Obama has gotten this conversation started, and I am committed to doing all that I can to allow this conversation to proceed."

Malloy said he was opposed in 2004 to letting the federal assault weapons ban expire. He said he would support a state ban on magazine clips with a more than 10-round capacity.

"You don't need a 30-round clip to go hunting. You don't need a 30-round clip to honor the Constitution of the United States," Malloy said. "And I think it is time that we have a realistic discussion about the weapons that are used time and time again in these mass casualty situations. I mean it would be stupid not to have that conversation."

Malloy did not pinpoint other gun control measures that he would support, but he said he would like to examine guns that are easily taken from "one-shot capacity to 30-shot capacity," how guns are defined and which guns are registered.

He said, however, that he would be respectful of people using weapons for hunting or other legal uses.

"I think it is clear that we have to be respectful of our constitution in Connecticut and nationally," he said.

From a school security standpoint, Malloy said he hoped there would not be a need for a "guard" outside of every school, but that he would have to see what the commission recommended. There might be a need to "harden" school infrastructure, he said.

Access to mental health and the stigma attached to seeking mental health services also have to be examined, Malloy said.

"All too often we think of treatment for mental issues very differently than we think of a broken arm or a broken leg," he said.

The state has made huge gains since opening the first mental health institution in Hartford, but there is more to be done, he said.

"I think it is an opportunity for Connecticut to lead the way, as it has since the very first founding of a mental institution in the entire continental United States," Malloy said. "That could be some good that comes out of this horrific incident."

Malloy said he knows many people who have the financial resources but cannot move beyond the mental health stigma to get help.

"We have to address it," he said.

j.somers@theday.com

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