As Sandy Hook Students Return to School, Connecticut Governor to Launch Gun Violence Task Force
By Jim Malewitz, Staff Writer
Still reeling from the elementary school massacre that shocked the nation, Connecticut will launch an expert panel that will study current policy and make recommendations on school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention, Governor Dan Malloy said Thursday (January 3).
The announcement came as students from Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary returned for their first day of classes after a gunman’s rampage left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
“We don’t yet know the underlying cause behind this tragedy, and we probably never will. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction,” Malloy, a Democrat, said in a release. “I want the commission to have the ability to study every detail, so they can help craft meaningful legislative and policy changes.”
The commission, chaired by Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, will give an initial report by March 15, the governor said, leaving time for lawmakers to consider proposals in the legislative session that starts next month.
“This horrible tragedy has forced all of us to confront gun violence and the terrible impact it has had on so many lives,” Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman said in a statement. “I am hopeful that this commission can begin to find some answers to how we can improve school security and how we can address and mitigate violence in our communities.”
Connecticut’s gun control laws are among the strictest in the nation. A recent report by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranked its laws fourth toughest among states. Connecticut also has the fifth-lowest per capita rate of gun violence.
The state requires background checks for handgun transfers between people other than licensed firearm dealers and for all firearm exchanges at gun shows, according to the center. It prohibits possession and transfer of so-called assault weapons and certain 50-caliber rifles and imposes a two-week waiting period for long-gun transfers.
Connecticut, however, allows possession of large ammunition magazines, and it does not impose design safety standards or require microstamping, which could help police track illegal handgun sales.
States expect plenty of proposals on gun control and mental health this year, after the Sandy Hook shooting revived a long-stifled debate.
In Massachusetts, State Representative David Linsky, a Democrat, said Thursday he will soon file a comprehensive bill to address gun violence, with a focus on keeping guns away from those who have mental health issues, the Associated Press reported. One option, he told reporters, would be to require people seeking a gun license to grant authorities access to their mental health history.
In Maryland, a legislatively mandated task force released a report this week recommending that authorities seize guns from mentally ill people who pose a public safety threat. Under the recommendations, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians and social workers would be required to report such threats.
The Illinois legislature is debating sweeping gun control measures, including restrictions on semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Colorado is also gearing up for a high-profile battle on gun control, as Governor John Hickenlooper said the “time is right,” to debate the issue — a reversal of his statements following a shooting that left 12 dead an Aurora, Colorado movie theater last July. That has put the state’s pro-gun lobby on the defensive.
“The battle to protect our gun rights that lies before us in this next legislative session in is one unlike we have ever seen,” the Colorado State Shooting Association says on its website.