The Sandy Hook Advisory Committee delivered its final report to Gov. Dannel Malloy on Friday with 94 recommendations on how to prevent another mass shooting like that of the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The 277-page report focused on three areas: safe school design and operation; law enforcement, public safety, and emergency response; and mental health and wellness.
Members held dozens of hearings and received public testimony from at least 100 witnesses and experts in the areas addressed. The final document included slight revisions from the draft released in February.
"The Commission was not intended to be an investigatory body. It was not intended to tell the story of what happened on December 14, 2012 with academic rigor and forensic precision," the report says. "It was not intended to cast a bright light on A.L., and in doing so, make the incomprehensible act somehow comprehensible. It was not assigned financial resources."
Malloy created the 16-member panel in the wake of the tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 first-graders and six educators. For more than two years, the group reviewed current policies in Connecticut pertaining to the areas of public safety, particularly focusing on school safety, gun-violence prevention and mental health. The members’ mission was to change policies and laws in an effort to prevent another mass shooting.
During the last meeting Friday in Hartford, panelist Wayne Sandford said it's only a matter of time until another shooting occurs in Connecticut. Other members echoed Sandford's sentiment and urged leaders to consider the report in its entirety.
State legislators already have put into law some of the suggestions recommended by the panel, such as requiring mandatory background checks on all commercial gun sales and transfers, including unlicensed dealers, in Connecticut.
Below are some of the recommendations:
- Create a safety committee to include police, first responders, teachers, administrators and custodians.
- All exterior doors in elementary, middle and high schools should be equipped with hardware capable of implementing a full perimeter lockdown.
- Additional safety standards should be studied and implemented concerning the issuance of classroom keys to substitute teachers.
- Custodians, who are typically well-versed on the physical school building and grounds, should be included as members of security and safety committees.
- Teachers, administrators and custodians should be appointed to school security and safety committees.
- Each school should provide safety and security training for faculty, staff and students on how to respond to hazards and other events.
- The amount of ammunition that can be purchased at a given time should be limited.
- Ammunition purchases should only be allowed for registered users.
- Registration should be required for every firearm, and should be issued after completion of a background check. This is separate from a permit to carry a firearm.
- Firearms permits should be renewed on a regular basis, and include a test of weapon-handling capacity, as well as an understanding of applicable laws and regulations.
- Build systems of care that go beyond treating mental illness to foster healthy individuals, families and communities, and embrace overall psychological, emotional and social well-being.
- Address a fragmented and underfunded behavioral health system to eradicate the stigma around mental health in the country.
- Schools should play a critical role in fostering healthy child development and healthy communities.
- A sequenced social development curriculum must include anti-bullying strategies.
- Implement higher reimbursement rates for care.
- Increase the behavioral health workforce.
For nearly two years, Congress has been in a stalemate on gun-safety legislation, following the failure of the Senate to pass a comprehensive and bipartisan background checks bill in April 2013. In that time, more than 100 school shootings have occurred on American soil, the FBI says mass shootings are on the rise, and active-shooter and lockdown drills have become part of children’s and teachers' academic routines.
Commission members also provided an overview of the morning of the Sandy Hook shooting and the events leading up to when the gunman, identified in the report as “A.L.,” killed 26 people and his mother, Nancy Lanza. She had taken a trip to a resort in New Hampshire from Dec. 11 until Dec. 13, in order to have a break from the challenges in dealing with her son and experiment with leaving him home alone for an extended amount of time. A report published in November 2013 by the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury concluded that the 20-year-old gunman had significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and interact with other people.
The gunman killed his mother with a rifle, which he left by her bed. He then drove his 2010 Honda Civic to carry out the elementary-school shooting, afterwhich he also shot himself.
It's now up to Malloy to decide if and when to take action on the suggestions.
Members of the panel, chaired by Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, included a professor, principal, attorney, fire chief, former chief of police, psychiatrist and pediatrician.