The 256-page report is being described as a draft of the commission’s final report. It is scheduled to be discussed and changes made at its meeting Friday in Room 1B in the state Legislative Office Building at 9:30 a.m.
The 16-member commission, which has been meeting for two years, was appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after the killing of 20 first graders and six educators by a lone gunman at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.
The forensics of the mass murder, which led to major gun reforms in the state and a national debate on firearms, has been detailed in previous reports by the state police and the Connecticut Child Advocate.
This draft deals with recommendations on better behavioral health programs and insurance coverage, more secure school buildings and additional firearm controls.
One section on mental illness and violence disconnects one from the other in the majority of circumstances.
“ … while untreated psychiatric illness in a narrow subset of the population does increase the risk of violence, a diagnosable mental illness alone is a very weak predictor of interpersonal violence – particularly compared to other factors such as substance abuse, a history of violence, socio-economic disadvantage, youth and male gender.”
“All these factors have far stronger correlations with a risk of violence than does a psychiatric diagnosis. For gun violence in particular, mental illness contributes greatly to the rates of suicide but marginally to homicide rates,” the report states.
Adam Lanza, who carried out the killings at Sandy Hook, was found to have had little treatment for behavioral issues over his lifetime.
The General Assembly was not expected to deal with more gun control measures this session, with the exception of a proposal to take firearms away from persons for whom temporary restraining orders are imposed in domestic violence cases, which is one of the recommendations in the draft.
Many of the proposed bills around firearms this year deal with easing some of the restrictions adopted in 2013.
State Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, chairman of the Public Safety and Security Committee, said there is always a “continuing dialogue” on firearms bills, but he did not know if there was an appetite to address them before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the state’s gun law changes.
He said he did not want to raise some of them and “give false hope” to lawmakers looking for adjustments. Some clarifications may be in order, he said, but again it may be better to wait on the judicial ruling.
The draft is recommending that the state require a certificate of registration for every firearm, which would be distinct from a permit to carry.
It wants ammunition purchases only for registered firearms and says the state should evaluate best practices for regulating or prohibiting sale and purchase of ammunition through the Internet.
The commission recommends a limit on the quantity of ammunition that can be bought at any given time. It suggested that the state prohibit the possession, sale and transfer of any firearm capable of firing more than 10 rounds without reloading as more comprehensive than the current Connecticut law.
It wants trigger locks required at the time of sale or transfer of any firearm and an update of the best practices manual that would require that all firearms in a home be secured in a tamper resistant locked container and the owner responsible for securing the key.
Lanza had easy access to his mother’s firearms and Nancy Lanza was his first victim before he entered the school and later killed himself as police were arriving.
The commission wants gun clubs to report negligent or reckless behavior to police; it would require promoters of gun shows to receive a permit from police or elected officials and notify state police of any shows.
The draft recommends changes for the firearms industry by requiring any shell casing for ammunition sold or possessed in Connecticut have a serial number etched on it. It also wants anyone seeking a license to sell, purchase or carry a firearm be required to pass a suitability screening process.
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, which is appealing a court decision upholding the state’s revised gun laws, was disappointed with the draft report.
He said the recommendation to ban any gun capable of firing more than 10 rounds without reloading would add “thousands of commonly held firearms” to the list of prohibited firearms in the state.
Requiring a test of firearms handling as well an understanding of the law each time a permit is renewed is unnecessary, Wilson said.
He said there is no correlation between the capability of legal gun owners and what happened at Sandy Hook.
“It is just shocking that these people can sit there with a straight face and say they support the 2nd Amendment … and continue with this diatribe,” he said.
Wilson called the commission “a puppet of the Malloy administration.”
To make it easier for law enforcement, the draft report said all police should be able to respond to any jurisdiction in a major emergency at the invitation of the requesting jurisdiction. It recommends that self-dispatch by EMS personnel be prohibited.
The commission sees a need for regional multi-jurisdictional response teams, which would include school administrators, to deal with major events. It wants formal after-action reports following an emergency maintained by state police and chiefs of police.
The draft recommends programs focusing on violence reduction through the schools with alcohol awareness programs included at appropriate points in the curriculum.
In the area of behavioral health, the commission, like many reports before it, said the state has to address the “fragmented and underfunded behavior health system tainted by stigma” by taking a “comprehensive, integrated approach to care.”
It said reimbursement for care should “embrace a biopsychosocial model that understands the individual’s physical and mental health strengths and challenges in the context of that person’s social environment and relationships.”
It said schools have to play an integral part with social-emotional learning part of the pre-school through high school curriculum that would cover anti-bullying and substance abuse.
The draft said all schools should have risk-assessment teams that respond to children who may be a threat to themselves or others.
On the issue of reimbursements by insurers, it said inadequate payment and high utilization rates have left behavorial clinics “financially unsustainable” with overall Medicaid rates for inpatient care unchanged for eight years.
Poor reimbursement has also hurt recruiting more healthcare workers, which now are insufficient to meet the needs of children. It suggests educational incentives such as loan forgiveness.
It said insurers should cover “the full panoply of services available through the public behavioral health system.” It described these as “programs that provide housing, vocational and occupational support and drop-in services that be essential components of an effective treatment strategy for individuals struggling with severe mental illness.”
It wants behavioral health carve-outs, designed to control costs, rather than increase access, phased out as soon as possible. It says the state has to demand up to date and accurate provider lists for mental health treatment.
To counter “repeated and inappropriate denials of care,” it wants all appeals to go to the Office of Health Care Advocate with independent clinicians made available around the clock. It wants insurers to provide coverage during the denial and appeals process with decisions based on the medical literature.
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5, thanked Malloy and the state legislature for steps they have already taken in response to Sandy Hook.
They noted, however, there have been more than 100 additional shootings since the killings at Newtown and “Congress has yet to act on commonsense measures, supported by the vast majority of Americans that would help stem this national crisis.”
In a statement they said they would continue to fight for measures “that would deprive murderers of the key means of massacre, provide law enforcement the additional tools they have sought to enforce the laws on the books, strengthen school security, and fix our broken mental health system.”
On securing school buildings the draft emphasized doors that can be locked from the inside and exterior doors equipped with hardware capable of implementing a full perimeter lockdown. It would task each school with implementing a school security and safety plan with teachers, custodians and appointed to safety committees.