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Sandy Hook panel will focus on mental health page 2

Date published: 1/25/2013


Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a member of the panel that reviewed the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, urged the Connecticut group to focus on the intersection of mental health and gun violence. He said "incident after incident" since Columbine has shown there's a relationship between the two issues.

"What we don't want is a policy debate in this country, I think, or in Connecticut, that gets locked down around the polar opposites around gun control or the polar opposites around mental health or mental health funding," Ritter said. "Part of this has to be this broad discussion and a discussion about the intersection."

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."

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.

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