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Chairman of Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Calls Post "A Unique Opportunity"

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson talks about being named chairman of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission.

The next two months are going to be busy for Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson.

It's always a busy time of year because it's budget season. But this year, Jackson's got an added responsibility — chairing the state commission charged with making recommendations on improving school security.

In the wake of the Dec. 14 school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Gov. Dannel Malloy quickly created the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission to "review current policy and make specific recommendations in the areas of public safety, with particular attention paid to school safety, mental health, and gun violence prevention," according to the governor's office.

And Malloy tapped Jackson to lead the 16-member commission that has a March 15 deadline to submit recommendations to the governor's office.

"My first reaction was that I was somewhat surprised, but I didn't hesitate to say yes," Jackson said. "This was a unique opportunity and an event that was being discussed around every dinner table in America and maybe around the world, including mine."

"This is an opportunity to look at it from a public policy standpoint and make recommendations to make kids safer," he said.

He expects the format to be much like that of the Two-Storm Panel, on which he also served, Jackson said -- hearings held at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, where experts will testify.

"My role as chairman will be to run things and keep things fair," Jackson said.

Other commission members include fire chiefs, security officials, educators and mental health professionals. What it doesn't include is gun advocates, which, Jackson said, has caused some complaints.

"I've heard some criticism that there's no one representing gun owners on the panel," he said, "but it was not designed to represent all possible interests, it was designed to be a rational group that will hear from the experts and filter what they have to say into recommendations.

"Guns are probably the easiest discussion to have," he said. "What should we do with guns is the easiest question to discuss but we have to discuss what to do with community mental health services."

Making it difficult is the fact that the police reports relating to the Newtown shooting won't be available to the commission because they won't be released in time, Jackson said. While there are numerous rumors swirling as to what happened that day, the commission can only address what has been confirmed to have actually happened, he said.

"Part of the challenge will be to avoid the myths and stick to the facts," he said.

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