Governor Markell: In the aftermath of Sandy Hook Elementary School Violence in Connecticut

Date Posted: Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
Categories:  Former Governor Jack Markell (2009-2017) Office of the Governor Safety and Homeland Security

Mental Health Concerns, School Safety, Gun Laws

(Wilmington, DE) The Governor issued the following statement in response to troubling questions raised by the Connecticut school shooting :

As the father of two, I, like so many others around the country, have spent the last few days thinking about the issues that this awful incident raises. In homes, in businesses and in government, we are having conversations about what this means and what we need to do. What is clear is that we have a culture of violence in this country, coupled with ready access to guns, and we continue as a society to fail adolescents struggling with mental illness.  That reality is deeply concerning to me, as I know it is to others.  I see three areas of discussion taking place:

Mental Health

When skilled mental health professionals are present in the schools, they provide the best possible opportunity we have to identify young people who are in need of services and to connect those young people and their families with appropriate services.  We must work to remove more of the stigma associated with mental illness and recognize it for the disease that it is.  Access to treatment is critical, and my administration is preparing plans to expand that access, especially for children and teens.

School Safety

This year we created a new statewide protocol for comprehensive school safety plans in every public school.  Schools are now in the process, working with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and with local emergency responders, of creating those plans.  To date, 30 schools have completed these plans and we have funded creation of school safety plans for the next 50 schools.  We need to make sure that we complete the effort to have comprehensive school safety plans completed for all schools. And it is important to recognize – and this is already inherent in the plans that are being created — that teachers and school officials are going to be the true first responders in an incident like this.

Guns Laws

In 2011, I proposed, and the General Assembly passed bills designed to strengthen enforcement around existing gun laws, including legislation to make sure Delaware does its part to keep those with disqualifying mental illnesses from obtaining guns. I am on the record as supporting  a ban on assault weapons with large magazines. As we move forward, I think and hope there are measures that reasonable gun owners can agree with — and in fact have started to voice support for in the last few days.

As we talk about access to mental health, and school safety, and access to guns, we also need to talk about family and social responsibility.  Too many kids are spending countless hours on video games and television shows and movies that glorify violence and treat human life as cheap and dispensable.  As parents, we need to exercise judgment.   As a society, we need to provide young people with other opportunities that will teach them to value themselves rather than devalue others.

These are the areas we need to discuss as a state – and in which we need to do a better a job for our citizens and our kids.

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