Sandy Hook Commission releases final report, recommendations

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NEWTOWN--More than two years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the panel convened to investigate the incident presented its final report to Gov. Dan Malloy.

Commission Chair Scott Jackson, who serves as Hamden's mayor, started the final meeting on Friday afternoon with a moment of silence for the Sandy Hook victims.

Commission members then reflected about their hours of work together that concluded with the final report focusing on three main topics: safe school design and operation, law enforcement changes and mental and behavioral health recommendations.

Chris Lyddy, commission member and program manager at Advanced Trauma Solutions, urged the public to help make recommendations within the report a reality. Many need a state law or state funding.

"Call your legislators and talk to your respective professions whether they be psychiatry, social work, education and ask them to do something about it, " Lyddy said.

The nearly 300-page document starts by stating that its premise is that school is the place besides home that everyone should feel absolutely safe. However, "Short of transforming our schools into gated communities or prison-like environments, however, no school can be freed entirely from the risk of violence. "

Commission members worked to make its recommendations comprehensive and broad to cover a wide variety of possible incidents and risks.

"Although the Sandy Hook tragedy was a mass shooting incident, the commission determined that it should not propose a set of recommendations intended only to reduce the risk of that specific type of event from reoccurring at a school. An 'active shooter' represents just one type of risk," the report says.

Some of the most controversial recommendations include the requirement that all shell casings for ammunition sold have a serial number laser etched on it; that every gun owner obtain a certificate of registration, separate from a permit to carry; and minimizing magazine capacity.

Gov. Malloy says some of the recommendations face financial and political challenges. He also said he doesn't believe there's an appetite in the General Assembly to pass more significant gun control, beyond the sweeping legislation approved in 2013 but he does feel good about the idea to require a trigger lock be included with every gun sale.

Some like Deborah Stevenson of the Parental Rights Coalition had objections to the mental health section that comprised nearly half the report.

"If you're going to compel mental health screenings, if you are going to compel and IEP which may include forced drugging of children who have mental health needs without parental consent, that's the issue," Stevenson said.

"I think there’s a desire to protect privacy rights and finding the right balance between a simple proposition of what needs to be done and making sure that we’re respecting people’s privacy rights is going to be very important as we move forward. This is not --  it shouldn't be viewed as finished," said Malloy at a news conference following the commission meeting.

He and several commission members said the important takeaway is that hours of testimony, review and brainstorming will lead to serious legislative consideration.

"Their deaths should mean something and should stand for something. Not temporarily but permanently and i think your recommendations will make sure that that happens," Malloy told commission members.

Jackson said the commission plans to reconvene one year from Friday to see how far its recommendations have gone.

You can read the full report here, but here are just some of the recommendations made:

Safe school design and operation:

  • All K-12 classroom doors should be able to be locked from the inside. "The testimony and other evidence presented to the Commission reveals that there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door."
  • All exterior doors should have hardware capable of full perimeter lockdown.
  • The recommendation that a study be conducted to determine possibly issuing classroom keys to substitute teachers.
  • To make custodians part of school security and safety committees because they have better knowledge than most of the grounds and school building.
  • All school staff should be trained on safety and security, including knowing and using rendezvous points, escape routes, location of safe havens, the means of emergency communication and the role of faculty, staff, emergency responders, and more.

Law enforcement changes:

  • The state should require a certificate of registration be obtained for every gun after a complete background check is completed. This is separate from a permit to carry, which the commission recommends be renewed regularly. The renewal process would include a handling test and an understanding of all laws.
  • Only allow ammunition to be sold to those who have a registered gun, and limit the amount of ammunition allowed to be sold to a person at a time.
  • Minimizing gun sales to only those that can fire less than 10 rounds without reloading.
  • Adding the requirement of trigger locks at the time of sale for every gun.
  • Require all shell casings for ammunition sold have a seriel number laser etched on it

Mental and behavioral health recommendations:

  • Improving health insurance reimbursement and utilization rates at outpatient facilities
  • Increase the behavioral health workforce in the state
  • Commercial insurance should cover all services available in the public behavioral health system, including housing and drop-in services.

Related stories:

Sandy Hook panel set to release final report Friday

Home schooling parents upset with Newtown panel proposals

Sandy Hook Commission finalizes official report on the tragedy

Sandy Hook Commission releases draft of final report