By MATTHEW KAUFFMAN, email@example.com
The Hartford Courant
11:14 PM EST, January 13, 2013
Relatives of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, are calling on the White House to support new federal laws aimed at giving police an early warning of possible attacks and penalizing gun owners whose weapons are obtained by a dangerous person.
The family is also calling for mandatory nationwide school lockdown drills, federal grants for school security upgrades and the development of an emergency response team of mental health professionals that would be available immediately after profoundly traumatic events.
"In Noah's memory, we are determined to make a difference," the family wrote in a memorandum provided to the Courant late Sunday.
The recommendations in the eight-page document represent the views of Noah's mother, Veronique; her brother, Alexis Haller, a lawyer in Washington State; and other maternal relatives. The family said the recommendations were preliminary and that they intended to submit additional proposals.
"We recognize that no single law or reform will prevent targeted school shootings," the family wrote. "However, by enacting a wide range of reforms, federal, state and local governments can make our children much safer in schools.
"If our efforts help prevent even a single other family from losing a child to gun violence, we will have accomplished our goal."
Under the proposed "Sandy Hook Reporting Law," anyone who was aware of a "grave and imminent threat of serious physical harm" by an individual with access to a firearm or powerful explosive device, would be required to notify law enforcement within 24 hours. The family said the proposal was based on research showing that in past school attacks, the perpetrators' plans or ideas were typically known by others.
"Like child abuse reporting laws did fifty years ago, the Sandy Hook Reporting law seeks to change our culture's mentality with regard to reporting individuals who pose a violent danger to others," the family's proposal states. "All citizens need to begin accepting the responsibility of preventing a mass shooting, and all citizens need to help law enforcement identify imminent threats."
Under the "Sandy Hook Firearm Safekeeping Law," the owner of a gun would be guilty of a misdemeanor if the weapon came into the possession of a person who had been diagnosed with a mental illness and was "reasonably believed to pose a danger to others," or any person who is reasonably believed to pose "a grave and imminent danger of serious physical injury or death to others."
The proposal includes more serious penalties for the gun owner if the dangerous individual discharges the firearm, and calls for a mandatory five-year minimum prison term for the gun owner if anyone is physically harmed by the gun.
The family noted that Adam Lanza, the gunman who killed Noah along with 19 other children and six adults at the school, used weapons that belonged to his mother, whom he also killed.
"If the shooter's mother had survived, we believe that she should have been subject to criminal prosecution," the Pozner family wrote. "With gun ownership comes responsibility. The owner of a firearm has the obligation – an obligation to each of his or her fellow citizens – to ensure that the firearm is not accessible by an individual who poses a danger to others."
In addition to the criminal penalties, the family said the federal government should fund security reviews and upgrades at schools. The family said it was reluctant to propose specific changes for every school, but said funding should be available for a wide variety of security improvements that local officials deem appropriate, possibly including security cameras, metal detectors, bulletproof windows or random sweeps for weapons.
The Pozners are also calling for uniform national standards on school lockdown drills, which they said should be mandated at any school where they aren't currently conducted.
"Just like every school is mandated by law to have fire drills, every school should now be mandated to have lockdown drills as well," the family wrote.
Lockdown training should also be provided to all substitute teachers, the family wrote. Noah's classroom was led by a substitute the day of the shooting and while another educator was also in the room, the extent of the substitute teacher's training in lockdown procedures is unclear.
Lastly, the Pozners are calling for a system of immediate grief counseling for the families of victims of mass tragedies. They proposed a national telephone number for families to call, as well as a pre-selected group of mental health professionals who would be dispatched to the location of traumatic events.
The proposals will be considered by the White House's task force on gun violence, led by Vice President Joe Biden, who has said he wants to have a package of recommendations ready by Tuesday.
The Pozners' recommendations come a day before relatives of other victims are expected to join with members of a group called Sandy Hook Promise to announce their plans for improving school safety.
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