One Year Later: Lessons from Sandy Hook
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Finding an answer to what caused one person to take the lives of 27 others before his own may not be possible, says Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra. “I don’t know if they’ll ever truly truly truly figure out why this happened—sometimes the question is beyond comprehension,” she says. “But if you look at the underlying issues that have been raised by people . . . I continue to look at the mental health question.” She adds, “As a society, we’re just not there yet” in providing adequate resources.
Llodra says that while school-security measures have been enacted and that there are town residents working to focus on gun-control legislation, she believes what isn’t being addressed fully is why someone wanted to cause harm in the first place.
“Part of the sadness is if something like this could happen in Newtown, at a school where everything was done right—this was a school that had best practices for all safety protocols, a well-trained staff, a loving staff, a great administration . . . this was a school that students and families have loved for generations—if this horrible thing can happen in a school like that in Newtown, it could happen anywhere,” she says. “It puts everybody on notice to say, ‘Pay attention to your community and do whatever you can within your sphere to make sure it doesn’t happen where you are.’”
But are communities actually heeding that advice? Llodra says yes, “but not sufficiently. I think we’re starting to move the ball in that direction.”
Malloy continues to speak of changing policies and increasing mental-health resources. Though he signed some of the strongest gun-control legislation in the nation and has tried to provide additional mental-health and security resources, he acknowledges the job isn’t done.
“The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School was devastating to our state and our entire nation,” he said in a statement to Connecticut Magazine. “I believed then as I do now that the best way to move forward is to do so in a way that honors those we lost. We have taken some common-sense steps on school security, gun violence prevention and mental health that I am proud of. But the truth is that one year is not enough time to get everything right, let alone mourn all that we lost that terrible day.
“We owe it to everyone that was affected that day to make sure we leave the world a better place than we found it. That is work that you must dedicate your life to, and it’s a goal I think we need to work toward.”
In the wake of the shooting, organizations have sprung up lobbying for gun-control legislation. In April, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bipartisan bill that enacted some of the most sweeping gun-control laws in the nation. National efforts have been spearheaded by parents from Newtown as well.
“We’ve learned that it keeps happening and its going to keep happening until we do something about it to reduce the risk—and that’s the objective, to reduce to the risk,” says Monte Frank, a Newtown parent and board member of the Newtown Action Alliance who is working to make change happen not just for Newtown but for every community that suffers from gun violence. “Newtown proves that it can happen anywhere, while [a city like] Hartford shows us that unless we do something it will continue every day.”
Llodra, Weiss and Robinson all note that the community rose up and came together to support the families affected by Newtown. Each stresses that in spite of very different points of view about gun control and other policies, the town hasn’t fractured or wavered from the goal of staying united as a community. That’s one thing that Scott Wilson, president of the pro-gun Connecticut Citizen’s Defense League, says he’s taken away from the tragedy.
“I’ve learned something has gotten overlooked—we’re all on the same side in wanting to protect our children,” he says, suggesting that message has been lost in the debate. He also says he’s learned that those who believe in the Second Amendment need to continue to work tirelessly to protect it.