Unsuccessfully choking back tears at the Capitol on Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tried to describe the situation Friday in Newtown, where he found a group of people still waiting for answers long after the shooting had ended, and after surviving students and staff had all been reunited with their families.
Malloy was responding to a question late in the press conference about why the task had fallen to him to inform individuals that their loved ones weren’t coming home. He struggled with his emotions for a while before answering.
“It was evident to me that there was a reluctance to tell parents and loved ones that the person they were waiting for was not going to return,” Malloy said.
“That had gone on for a period of time, well after there was an expectancy that families would be reunited,” Malloy said. “So I made a decision that rather than relying on traditional investigative policies that you actually have a child or adult identified as the particular victim before you inform someone . . . that their loved one was not going to return. I made the decision that to have that go on any longer was wrong.”
Malloy raced out of the state Capitol on Friday and headed to Sandy Hook Elementary School a few hours after a gunman had taken the lives of 20 children and six adults. By Monday he had attended the first of many funerals, while Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman headed to another. In the coming days, he said, he would attend any funeral where he’s welcomed.
“There are really no words to describe what it’s like to see these parents as I did on Friday,” Malloy said. “It’s tough to see relatives and friends of these little children who died, as well as to see some of the teachers who have been so adversely impacted.”
At these funerals, he said you try to find words that are adequate, knowing they will be inadequate and “you see little coffins and your heart has to ache.”
In a televised address to the state on Saturday, Malloy hinted that the public policy debates likely to follow the shooting could wait, but by Monday he was ready to tackle them.
When the investigation is completed, Malloy said he’s going to be asking if there’s a law, policy, or procedure that might have prevented this tragedy.
“It turns out quite clearly the answer is ‘yes,’” Malloy said at a Capitol press conference.
That includes improving the state’s gun laws by banning large ammunition clips and making sure the state is reaching out to families and kids who are “obviously in trouble,” he said.
The state banned several dozen assault rifle models in 1993 and further strengthened the law to include all assault rifles in 2001.
But when the national assault weapon ban expired, so did the ban on the amount of ammunition that can be held in a clip. The clips used in the Sandy Hook shooting held 30 rounds each and there were multiple clips at the scene, Malloy said.
Malloy maintained that he supports sportsmen, but that assault weapons aren’t being used to hunt.
“These guns aren’t used on deer,” he said.
Absent a federal framework, including an assault weapons ban, Malloy said illegal guns will still make their way into the state.
A 2011 Connecticut bill that would have banned large ammunition magazines never made it out of the Judiciary Committee.
Malloy said he supports banning large ammunition clips and believes it’s a “common sense” piece of legislation for 2013.
“People previously thought they had done enough in Connecticut. I’m not saying I was one of those, but I doubt that there’s any one of those left,” Malloy said.
The statement sets up what could be a contentious debate in Connecticut over the 2nd Amendment. In 2011, the public hearing on the bill banning large ammunition clips was filled with sportsmen and police officers, some of whom said they feared that placing a ban on the high-capacity ammunition clips would increase prices. Police and military personnel are allowed to carry large clips.
James Strillacci, the now-retired West Hartford Police Chief, testified that banning large magazines would “deprive current, honest citizens of some property, or, if they fail to get rid of their magazines, it criminalizes them. It could drive up the price for those of us who — who are allowed to carry large capacity magazines — police and the military.”
Strillacci said he understood the legislature’s desire to do something in response to the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was one of 13 wounded in an attack at a supermarket that left six people dead. But Strillacci questioned whether the large ammunition ban was the appropriate response. He said Giffords was shot with a 31-shot pistol.
At that same hearing, Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, said that if he was defending himself against an intruder he would want a large magazine because he admitted he would probably hit the dresser 10 times before he hit the intruder.
Others testified it would be a hardship to have to turn in their large magazines, which they use in shooting competitions, if the state passes such a law.
The National Rifle Association has been silent since the shooting Friday. No one has responded to requests for comment.