The Connecticut General Assembly’s task force on gun violence began work Friday with a moment of silence, a pledge of bipartisanship and a plea to pay special heed to the voices and needs of Newtown.

Public hearings will begin next week in Hartford on how the state should change its laws and policies on guns, school safety and mental health in response the shooting deaths of 26 students and staff at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Newtown delegation

Newtown delegation: DebraLee Hovey, Mitch Bolinsky, Dan Carter.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, urged the legislators on the task force, who number slightly more than a quarter of the entire legislature, “to be bold, to be strong and to be comprehensive in our work.”

Connecticut is moving more slowly — more deliberately, in the view of state lawmakers — than New York or the Obama administration in response to the tragedy, a pace called appropriate by a new lawmaker from Newtown.

“We have not rushed to judgment. We have not rushed to decisions,” said Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown. “We’re holding community conversations, and we’re allowing the families and all of the people who are most deeply affected by this to participate.”

Bolinsky is a member of the task force, as are the other legislators whose districts include a portion of Newtown: Reps. DebraLee Hovey of Monroe and Dan Carter of Bethel and Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney of Fairfield. All four are Republicans.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly a 2-1 margin in the legislature, but the task force is evenly divided among members of the two parties and the opening meeting was run jointly by McKinney and House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.

McKinney asked for the moment of silence.

Three subcommittees will work simultaneously, one each for the subjects of guns, school safety and mental health. Each will hold a public hearing in Hartford, beginning next Friday with the school safety panel. A fourth and final hearing will be held in Newtown.

Sharkey said the goal is produce legislation that can be adopted by the end of February. An advisory commission created by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will produce its initial recommendations by mid-March.

The schedule of the task force hearings: School safety, Jan. 25 at 9:30 a.m.: gun safety, Jan. 28 at 10 a.m., and mental health, Jan. 29 at 10 a.m., all in Room 2C at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. A fourth public hearing will be held by the task force at Newtown High School on January 30 at 6 p.m.

The task force will establish a web site Tuesday where written testimony will be posted.

The memberships of the subcomittees is listed below.

Gun Violence:
Sen. Martin Looney, Co-chair
Rep. Craig Miner, Co-chair
Rep. Gerald Fox III
Rep. Stephen Dargan
Rep. Bob Godfrey
Rep. Toni Walker
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas
Rep. Janice Giegler
Rep. Dan Carter
Sen. Eric Coleman
Sen. John Fonfara
Sen. Joan Hartley
Sen. John Kissel
Sen. Scott Frantz
Sen. Tony Guglielmo
Sen. Kevin Witkos

School Safety:
Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, Co-chair
Sen. Toni Boucher, Co-chair
Rep. Roberta Willis
Rep. Patricia Widlitz
Rep. Diana Urban
Rep. Tim Ackert
Rep. Tim LeGeyt
Rep. Whit Betts
Rep. Mitch Bolinsky
Sen. Dante Bartolomeo
Sen. Andrea Stillman
Sen. Beth Bye
Sen. Andrew Maynard
Sen. Art Linares
Sen. Mike McLachlan
Sen. Kevin Witkos

Mental Health:
Sen. Toni Harp, Co-chair
Rep. Terrie Wood, Co-chair
Rep. Susan Johnson
Rep. Cathy Abercrombie
Rep. Robert Megna
Rep. Betsy Ritter
Rep. Prasad Srinivasan
Rep. DebraLee Hovey
Sen. Terry Gerratana
Sen. Gayle Slossberg
Sen. Joe Crisco
Sen. Rob Kane
Sen. Kevin Kelly
Sen. Joe Markley
Sen. Jason Welch

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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