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More screening for guns among Newtown proposals

SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

Publication: theday.com

Published June 20. 2014 3:18PM   Updated June 20. 2014 3:20PM

Hartford - Mental health suitability screenings for gun owners and sellers and consolidation of smaller emergency management dispatch centers are among the ideas being considered by a Connecticut commission charged with crafting public policy recommendations in light of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, created by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, hopes to present the governor with its final report and recommendations this summer. But no date has been set for the group, which has been meeting since January 2013.

On Friday, working groups that have focused on law enforcement, school safety, and mental health provided the full commission with updates. The law enforcement and school security groups offered specific ideas to recommend in the final report, such as having schools approach risk management by preparing for multiple scenarios, rather than just prepare for a possible gunman.

Members of the mental health group acknowledged they've been stymied by the complexity of their task and the fact they've yet to receive copies of the medical records of the 20-year-old Newtown gunman, Adam Lanza.

"We have been unable to obtain the medical records of the people who have treated him," said Dr. Harold Schwartz, adding how the group also has been unable to obtain "the shreds of communication" that might have shed light on how Lanza came up with the idea for the shooting, which killed 20 first-graders and six educators. The members have asked to see emails between Lanza and his mother, whom he killed before going to the school. He later committed suicide as police arrived at Sandy Hook.

The state's Office of the Child Advocate is reviewing some of Lanza's records, obtained through a subpoena, for a separate report that's nearing completion and may be incorporated into the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission's report. Lanza's father, Peter, previously told the commission he would help members obtain his late son's records.

Schwartz stressed that even if the commission had Lanza's medical records, it doesn't mean it can come up with recommendations that would have predicted or stopped Lanza's actions or similar events. But Schwartz said the records are key to learning whether Lanza had been developing a psychotic illness before the shooting.

Some commission members expressed their dismay Friday about the spate of mass shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. The group has hoped that its report will be used by public policy leaders in Connecticut and around the country.

"I'm really concerned that when the report is written and published, it will not have changed the flow that we seem to be dealing with in our country," said Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy. "We all share the same frustration. Now, 17 months after Sandy Hook, there continues to be what I consider to be an epidemic in our country. I'm not sure that we have put our finger on the tool or tools that are necessary to change the course of the epidemic."

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, the commission's chairman, agreed the panel has a "great charge" in attempting to stop a cultural trend with a report. 

"That is certainly climbing up the hard side of the mountain," he said. "But what I think each one of us, who have spent so much time on this, is attempting to do is add another voice of credibility so that that the crescendo emerges that says we must take a look at our cultural underpinnings because that may very well be the root of this series of tragedies and disasters that has befallen this nation for many years now."

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