Hugh McQuaid photo
Sandy Hook Commission (Hugh McQuaid photo)

Preventing access to certain guns will be a central recommendation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission when it completes its report next month after more than two years of work.

The panel of education, mental health, law enforcement, and safety experts was created by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and has been meeting periodically since shortly after the Dec. 14, 2012, murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The group is drafting a comprehensive report on the shooting and recommendations to curb future tragedies.

At a Friday meeting in the Legislative Office Building, members of the group discussed re-approving an interim recommendation to ban the possession or sale of any gun capable of firing more than 10 times without having to reload.

There seemed to be consensus among the group that the recommendation should remain. Several members expressed a desire to make a strong statement on the issue of gun control.

“The relationship between the accessibility to this kind of weaponry and mass shootings is the single most important common denominator in mass shootings. We’ve spent two years looking at the mental health aspects of this. The relationship to mental health issues is minimal and pales to the relationship to these weapons,” Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, said.

Schwartz suggested that the group should not limit its firearm recommendations to the state of Connecticut. He said the proposal should be considered by Congress and nearby states. Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, the panel’s chairman, said there was nothing in the commission’s gun control recommendations that limit them to Connecticut.

“It is possibly the statement of the commission,” Jackson said. He pointed to comments by Bernard Sullivan, a member of the commission and former Hartford police chief, and said the group’s conclusions on guns were driven by pragmatism rather than dogma.

“The lethality of the weapons used in the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School requires that the commission evaluate access to firearms and ammunition. The analysis of the commission was not rooted in dogma or a particular ingrained worldview, but rather rational analysis of what type of firearms are available to citizens and what that means to the security of communities,” Jackson said.

In 2013, the Sandy Hook Commission issued its interim report and included the controversial ban on high-capacity magazines and guns that can shoot them. Jackson said the recommendations in the final report will supersede any recommendations made in previous reports.

Malloy formed the panel after the murder of 20 children and six adults at the Newtown school. The group released an interim report in 2013, just before the legislature passed its own bill and enacted sweeping new firearm regulations, which included a prospective expansion of the state’s assault weapons ban and limitations on ammunition magazines.

The commission’s ban differs from the law approved by the legislature. The 2013 law allowed residents who legally owned prohibited weapons before the law was passed to keep the guns so long as they registered them with the state. The commission’s proposal does not include such a “grandfather” provision.

Jackson told reporters his commission is hoping to have its final report submitted to Malloy before Valentine’s Day in an effort to give lawmakers time to act on its recommendations during this legislative session.

“I think everyone is on board that we’ve got to finish. We have to finish before the legislature gets too far down their road,” he said.