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Sandy Hook Commission Looks To Finalize Recommendations

by | Jun 20, 2014 2:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Health Care, Law Enforcement, Public Safety

Hugh McQuaid Photo (Updated 2:50 p.m.) The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission considered ideas for its final report Friday with members expressing frustration over shootings that have occurred since the Newtown shooting and doubts about what their report will do to stem that trend.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy created the group almost 18 months ago in response to the murders of 20 school children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown.

Although the state legislature acted quickly to pass legislation including stricter gun control policies, the advisory panel — made up of experts in education, mental health, law enforcement, and emergency response — has taken its time in putting together final recommendations.

As they discussed ideas for the report Friday, members voiced concerns over what impact their document could have on stemming violent trends. Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy said it was troubling that people are no longer surprised to turn on the television and hear news of another school shooting.

“I think we all share the same frustration,” McCarthy said. “Now, 17 months after Sandy Hook, there continues to be what I consider to be an epidemic in our country and I’m not sure that we have a finger on the tool or tools necessary to change the course.”

Despite those frustrations, the panel heard recommendations former Hartford Police Chief Bernard Sullivan directed at law enforcement policies. They included a broader screening process for residents looking to purchase or carry guns.

Currently, the only method by which the state can identify someone with a mental illness who is unsuited for access to firearms is by checking to see whether they have been institutionalized, Sullivan said.

“I think that there’s got to be some way that we can keep guns out of the hands of people who aren’t capable of intelligently using them. And I don’t know what the method would be, but I think there has to be some screening process developed with experts,” he said.

Sullivan suggested greater scrutiny over whether an applicant has a history of heavy drinking or driving while intoxicated.

The group also is considering a recommendation that would see “micro serial numbers” etched onto individual bullet casings with a laser. The goal is to make it easier for law enforcement to trace the bullet back to the store from which it was purchased in order to help identify the person who bought it.

“We know that, even under the new statutes, people aren’t prohibited from buying ammunition they don’t need,” he said. “You can buy ammunition for any kind of gun and pass it to someone who’s not eligible.”

The panel also recommended early education for children focused on conflict resolution to curb the “violent culture” in society.

McCarthy said the panel’s law enforcement working group tried to draft recommendations giving police and first responders better tools to deal with “an ongoing epidemic” of violence. But he said he was not confident the report would change that “flow” of shootings.

“I’m just at a point of frustration and concern, as we move towards completion of our charge, that we haven’t made a difference and this won’t make a difference, that we’ll be addressing the problems from the margins,” McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, the segment of the group tasked with making mental health recommendations struggled to point to ideas that could help to prevent incidents like the Newtown shooting. Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, said members have focused instead on improving the mental health system, which indirectly may diminish the risk of mass shootings.

“We have never believed and nothing that we have read, testimony that we have heard, etcetera, suggests to us that it is possible to make recommendations that are truly substantive that will greatly enhance our capacity to predict these kinds of events and intervene in their occurring,” Schwartz said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, the panel’s chairman, agreed that group faces a difficult task.

“It is a great charge to attempt to arrest what appears to be a cultural trend with a report. That is certainly climbing up the hard side of the mountain but what I think each one of us . . . is attempting to do is add another voice of credibility so that the crescendo emerges that says we must take a look at our cultural underpinnings,” he said.

Jackson said the group has already begun writing portions of the report and hopes to have a draft document available by the end of August. However, the panel is still waiting on a number of items including a report from the Office of the Child Advocate, which Jackson hopes will provide the group with the most accurate picture so far of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza.

Next Friday, the commission will also hear from family members of some of the victims.

“We’re not asking about the day, we’re specifically asking about their analysis of recovery efforts. It’s an over time discussion. Now, they’ve earned the right to say anything they want to say. But the theme of the meeting is an analysis of the recovery effort and nobody is better to talk about that than the families,” Jackson said.

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(9) Archived Comments

posted by: Joebigjoe | June 20, 2014  6:54pm

Bunch of non-thinking people.

I’d like to get them to answer a simple question.

Why didn’t this happen 30-40-50 years ago?

posted by: dano860 | June 21, 2014  9:23am

“Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy said it was troubling that people are no longer surprised to turn on the television and hear news of another school shooting.”
We are not surprised to see two or three youth killed in a car crash, drug over dose, youth suicide (which is increasing), a few hundred murdered for trying to get an education(Africa), 300 girls being kidnapped just to be sold.
What correlation is there between being institutionalized or a DUI and mass murderers?
Restraining orders, drug dealer arrests are a couple that may be relevant to not possessing a firearm but no connection to a mass murder that I can find. They will choose a differs weapon, that’s all.
Even in the other report they identify the need to get to children early, good food programs and two parent families. Was Lanza acting out against the father and brother because they wanted nothing to do with him? Was it mothers love that trained him to be a murder because she believed he was “normal”? They talk about our “violent culture”, is that a knock on video games, movies, the SWAT teams that show up when a second grader brings a plastic knife to school or the terrorist threat that we live under?
The legislature did only one thing, they removed people’s rights to own firearms of their choice by regulation but they did nothing in the way of “gun control”.

posted by: Jthinker | June 21, 2014  10:46am

“I think that there’s got to be some way that we can keep guns out of the hands of people who aren’t capable of intelligently using them.” Wow. Now there’s an oxymoron- intelligent use of guns.

posted by: Larry | June 21, 2014  4:16pm

I actually watched this meeting and the last 45 minutes centered around peter lanza refusing to give up adams mental health records. Why is this not in the article?

posted by: Christine Stuart | June 21, 2014  9:13pm

Christine Stuart

Hi Larry,
So you are correct that the later half of the meeting focused on what you are referring to, but it was more complicated than that so we decided to save that for a future story. The Child Advocate report (they just got information from the U.S. Attorney’s office) won’t be available until sometime in July. It had been originally been June, but it will be later than first expected. You can be assured that we will be following up on all aspects of this there just wasn’t enough time to try to finish all the additional groundwork that would be needed to focus on that angle.

posted by: Joebigjoe | June 21, 2014  10:53pm

Why are politicians not revising HIPAA so that it doesnt apply if someone dies in the commission of a violent crime? Why are their rights so important?

This would seem logical but my feeling is that they dont want to do this because the truth will be overwhelming in one direction, not help their agenda and will lead to keeping a closer eye on people that will fit the profile that would become clear in the mass release of all these records.

posted by: Joebigjoe | June 22, 2014  7:17am

It does give me just a slight glimmer of hope when the former head of Mayors Against Legal Guns finally tells the truth about mass Murders and how the laws they have been pushing wouldnt stop them.


posted by: Greg | June 22, 2014  5:15pm

So, the group tasked to come up with tangible, actionable mental health initatives came up with microstamping for tracking ammo purchases.  That’s the best they can do after all these months of research and discussion: microstamping. 

Perhaps this group would elucidate for the rest of us how microstamping will stop the next school shooter/psychopath from going on some sort of rampage.  Perhaps they’d also like to explain to the residents of CT how the rich kid who stabbed and shot a bunch of people was still able to slip by the entire California gun control apparatus that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the nation.  Perhaps they’s also like to point out how few shootings of any sort happen in various states awash with guns (even the scary black ones) such as Utah, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. 

Yet here we are, the residents and taxpayers of CT—left, right, republican, democrat—were hoping for this panel to reveal something that everyone can rally behind for the good of the state.  And yet we are faced with complete and utter useless garbage such as microstamping.

posted by: Joebigjoe | June 23, 2014  12:25pm

In the 1989 Yale Law Journal, a professor and attorney, Sanford Levinson, set out to prove the 2nd amendment was not an individual right. After his exhaustive study, he published “The Embarrassing Second Amendment”. After all his work, he concluded that it was, and always had been, an individual right. At least he was honest enough to publish it anyway. Google it, it’s free and is very interesting reading.

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