Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said down with Hearst Capitol reporter Ken Dixon to talk about Sandy Hook, a year later.
Q: Are our schools safer?
Malloy: “I think they are safer but not every school is safer. We still have a lot of un-reinforced glass and doors and that’s why I awarded $21 M worth of grants and quite frankly as I said that day, we probably need to look at doing an additional round of that. That affected 609 schools in 110 districts. There’s probably more work to be done. All of those buildings weren’t built in a day and they not all are going to rebuilt in a day.”
Q: Where are the armed guards in schools, Enfield, Branford…?
Malloy: “As a guy in the 90s who brought school resource officers to Stamford, I insisted that they be in their uniforms and wear their guns, not as a safety precaution, but I always felt that if this program was to promote young people learning how to relate to police officers they needed to relate how a police officer dresses, right? And what equipment they carry. As far as going to armed guards in every school I don’t think that is the right way to spend money. But I’ve made it clear it’s a local decision for local people to make.”
Q: What kind of healing have you noticed over the last year.
Malloy: “I’ve been to Newtown on a number of occasions. I was flying down to Washington yesterday and someone noticed I had a Newtown bracelet that I’ve been wearing since, the next day or something like that and they said ‘thank you for everything you’re trying to do.’ I suppose that’s a sign of healing. Six months, nine months, 10 months ago, everybody would kind of walk by and say nothing. I think we’re having discussions and that’s a sign of progress. I don’t think anyone who didn’t lose a loved one that day can come anywhere close to putting themselves in that class of people.
I lost my mother…I was 29 when my mother died. It took over a year to fully process my mother’s passing. I can’t imagine how long it takes to get over your wife or your children’s passing. I don’t think that that’s something, particularly on the children’s side that you can ever put into context.
I had an aunt who lost a child in non-criminal circumstances. She lived a wonderful life but she was always affected by having a child pre-decease her.
I do run into some of the folks and I think some are doing better than others and I hope and pray that they’re all going to do better certainly once we get by the 14th. Some have left the state. I certainly understand why they wouldn’t want to be in the community where everything they see and do reminds you. Others will stay in Newtown for the rest of their lives because everything reminds them of their child. It depends on what side of the divide you fall there, you see?”
Q: What are the lessons?
Malloy: “There are a lot of lessons. I could break it into some categories. I think this whole mental-health thing and getting it right, particularly in our school system so that at the earliest possible moment we discover difficulties and we help families deal with them in a much more open way. That’s going to be important. I think de-stigmatizing mental health issues. Clearly mental health issues are not simply for the poor. Adam Lanza lived a relatively wealthy existence and yet he didn’t get the help that he needed or at least the help that would have prevented this from happening.
So I think we need to get a better grip around the issue of mental health, around the issue of school safety. Gun safety has been partially addressed and certainly we’ve done a lot in Connecticut, but until people in Washington see three simple things – you don’t have to ban a particular weapon, you don’t have to do any of that stuff. Just agree that nobody should be able to buy a gun without a background check. Agree that there should be no straw purchases. In this case Ms. Lanza couldn’t go and buy her son a handgun for Christmas. And it would be a federal crime to transport guns for the purposes of resale without a license. You do those three things, everybody in the United States gets safer.”
Q: You were initially critical of the police response at Sandy Hook…
Malloy: “I’m not so sure about that. We didn’t know exactly, on day one, how quickly they got there. You know, a four-minute, five-minute response. And that day, I had already learned that, simply by the response, by the car pulling up, I remember being told this later in the day on the 14th, maybe it was the 15th that they could track. Most of his bullets were fired down, or straight. And when the first car pulled up to the outside, he sprayed, kind of, on an upward trajectory and took out the windows and that sort of thing.
If I was critical to the response, maybe I misstated something. In some senses, I was bewildered by protocols that delayed informing parents that they would not be reunited and it took me some amount of time to deal with that. When I realized that this had gone on for a long period of time that we had this group of people in the firehouse with the ubiquitous forms of communication we all now carry on with ourselves. And at the time I was being told that we wouldn’t recover the scene until perhaps the next morning and we knew how many bodies we had the school and we knew that we had a vehicle that transported four bodies at a time and I remember asking the question, well in the case of the children could we double up so we can get more bodies to Farmington earlier? Trying to deal with that and trying to deal with how do I bring the next level of relief as quickly as possible to these parents, I may have been in the moment not supportive of the protocols that basically were explained to me: we never tell anybody that their loved one’s dead until we actually have an identified body. I asked the question: how many do we have there? How many were transported to the hospital and subsequently passed away? How many do we have here and I let it go on for one hour longer than I should have and then ultimately made the decision that somebody had to tell these gathered folks that they weren’t going to be reunited that day. No one else was volunteering to do it and so I took on that challenge. I know it was the right thing to do because very quickly those families went home to be where they needed to be: with their loved ones and their support networks and out of the fishbowl that the firehouse had become. All but three left.”
Q: Did Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky III overstep his authority.
Malloy: “I don’t know whether he overstepped his authority. I think he wishes and I certainly wish and have expressed this earlier. I have to be honest with you. I never assumed that the 911 tapes wouldn’t be released after the report was done. That’s the standard in the United States. I have this one dividing line between myself and some members of the media: I don’t believe that pictures of the victims need to be released.
I don’t believe that public disclosure of the pictures of victims need to be released. It might have to be part of a prosecution, for instance. It may have to be something else for identification purposes. But to randomly and without real reason release those pictures, I don’t think that’s necessary. It’s 50 years later and we haven’t seen the autopsy pictures of John Kennedy and none of us are worse off for it.”
Q: What about the 911 recordings from the school
Malloy: “I never assumed that the 911 tapes wouldn’t be released. They’re released in just about every circumstance. I think there’s a way of dealing with all of that.
Where I have absolutely sided with the parents, most of the parents, is that they should be able to remember their children the way they remember them and not the way they were left by Mr. Lanza that day.”
Q: Do you support the release of the first-responder recordings that were made secret until at least May 7, 2014.
Malloy: “I think conversation is different than pictures of innocent victims. I think there’s a dividing line between those two things. I know some people don’t see it. I don’t think they’re bad people for not seeing it. I don’t think I’m a bad person for believing that the victim has some rights, even if they are deceased.”
Q: What is your relationship with state gun manufacturers?
Malloy: “I’ve had discussions with gun manufacturers since then. Some of them simply acknowledge that circumstances are different in Connecticut than elsewhere. Some of them I think privately acknowledge that we should have universal background checks but they can’t do anything about it.
I don’t think we’re going to see 50 states do what Connecticut did. And I don’t think you’re going to see the federal government do what Connecticut did. But that’s what states have the right to do. But there’s no argument that we should have straw purchases or that you should be able to transport a gun for the purposes of resale without being licensed to do so, or that there shouldn’t be a universal background check. It’s pretty common sense. If we had that as a federal law, then our laws in Connecticut are that much more effective.”
Q: If you run for re-election, do you think the NRA will attack you?
Malloy: “They already are. They don’t put you on the front page of their magazine if they’re not going after you. They’ll come after me. They’ll come after the governor of Colorado. I certainly knew that before I took my stand. I was the first mayor in the country to sign on to the mayor of New York and mayor of Boston’s statement of principles. Although I support people’s right to own guns for whatever legal purpose they want to do. If I have to submit to a background check before I get on an airplane, I can submit to one before I buy a gun.
If you have someone in your family who suffers from anxiety, from depression, other forms of mental illness, drug addiction and you have a gun in your house, is it an invitation for them to kill themselves or an invitation for them to kill you or someone else.”