HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — State lawmakers on Friday began the challenge of coming up over the next several weeks with a bipartisan package of reforms that address the deadly Newtown elementary school shooting.
A 52-member task force on gun violence and children’s safety announced three subcommittees, focusing on gun and ammunition laws, mental health services and school safety. Lawmakers also unveiled an ambitious timeframe, with leaders saying they hope to take action before the end of February even though the regular legislative session doesn’t adjourn until June.
‘‘There’s a lot of ground to cover,’’ said Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, the co-chairman of the subcommittee on gun legislation. ‘‘I don’t think there’s anybody that’s here today or serves in the legislature that doesn’t recognize the significance of all that we'll talk about.’’
New York lawmakers this week passed the first batch of new gun control laws in the nation since the Dec. 14 shooting, which left 20 first-graders and six educators dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Sandy Hook gunman, who had killed his mother at home before going to the school, also killed himself.
The first Connecticut public hearing, by the school safety subcommittee, will be held on Jan. 25. The gun subcommittee will hold its hearing on Jan. 28, and the mental health subcommittee will hold its hearing on Jan. 29. All will be held at the Legislative Office Building.
Lawmakers also plan a public hearing before the task force at the Newtown High School on Jan. 30.
The subcommittees have until Feb. 15 to forward their recommendations for legislation to the General Assembly’s leaders. The members were urged on Friday to try to reach as much consensus as possible.
Changes to laws affecting guns and ammunition could prove the most controversial. In past years, gun control proposals have prompted large numbers of gun owners and enthusiasts to show up at the state Capitol in opposition. A pro-gun rights rally is planned for Saturday as part of a national effort to stage peaceful rallies of lawful gun owners at state capitol buildings across the country.
Miner, a member of the legislature’s sportsmen’s caucus, said he’s hopeful some agreement can be reached on guns.
‘‘The only way I think we'll have an opportunity for a good outcome is to begin to communicate amongst each other and find out what common ground we have,’’ he said. ‘‘I remain optimistic.’’
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, a longtime proponent of additional gun control measures and the other co-chairman of the subcommittee on guns, said he expects lawmakers will consider additional prohibitions on who can have access to guns and other regulatory requirements.
‘‘I'm hopeful that we can have a consensus agreement on at least some items, and then others may need to go forward separately,’’ he said.
The Newtown task force plans to have a website up and running by Tuesday. The public will be able to use the site to submit testimony on legislation already proposed this session and ideas about guns, ammunition, mental health and school safety.