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Conn. panel begins task of responding to Newtown

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013

Ritter, who was Denver's district attorney at the time of the Columbine shooting and was sent to the school that day, told commission members that many people are watching Connecticut and how it responds to the Newtown massacre. He said the panel has the opportunity to "actually make a difference," saying "you can end up saving lives at some point in the future." The report from Columbine led to national changes in how police respond to such events.

"As much as our investigation at Columbine was about a high school shooting in Littleton, Colo., the audience wound up being the community Littletown, the state of Colorado, the nation, and I venture to say even beyond that," he said. "Because of just the horrific nature of this, I think you can expect that your audience will be the people of Newtown, certainly, the people of Connecticut, but the nation watches. And the nation asks questions and wants to understand why and how these kinds of tragic events continue to occur."

Virginia Law Professor Richard Bonnie, a consultant to then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kane's review panel of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, warned the Connecticut commission against feeling pressure to act too quickly in recommending policy changes in the wake of Newtown. He said it could take the group two years to ultimately finish its work.

Bonnie warned that acting prematurely could lead to "disproportionate responses," such as eroding privacy rights for the mentally ill.

Malloy, a Democrat, said Thursday he understands the process should be deliberative, but urged the members to forward any early ideas for possible legislative action this session. Bonnie said the Virginia Tech commission also forwarded earlier recommendations, and eventually a larger package of reforms.

The panel, led by Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, includes mental health and public safety experts, such as the University of Connecticut police chief, the chief psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital's Institute for Living, and the director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. There is also a security consultant, a former state representative from Newtown and a Newtown Middle School teacher among the varied group.