Democratic and Republican legislative leaders joined today, Jan. 15, to announce the creation of a special bipartisan task force on gun violence prevention and children's safety.

The task force, formed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, will conduct a review of current law and make recommendations on a range of potential legislation to prevent gun violence, enhance school security and ensure the availability of mental health services in Connecticut.

"The eyes of the nation are on Connecticut to see how we respond to the horrific tragedy in Newtown and the plague of gun violence, said Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn. "Our children's safety is not a partisan issue and I am pleased to join with Democrats and Republicans in crafting a bipartisan plan to reduce violence, improve school security and address access to mental health services."

The task force, which includes Democratic committee chairmen and Republican ranking members, will provide recommendations to Senate and House leadership with the goal of producing a bipartisan emergency certified bill in late February.

The task force has designated three working groups that focus on the three core issues of gun violence prevention, school security and mental health. The co-chairmen and ranking members of the Judiciary, Public Safety, Public Health, Human Services, Education, Higher Education, Appropriations, Finance, Insurance and Children's committees will serve as members of the working groups. Each caucus will appoint as many as four members to each working group.

The first full meeting of the task force will take place on Friday, Jan. 18, at 1:30 p.m.

Senate Republican Leader John McKinney of Fairfield said, "I have had the privilege of representing Newtown, Connecticut, in the state Senate for the past 14 years and the tragic events that occurred there on December 14 require a response from our government and our society at large. I am pleased that this task force is set up to work across party lines to make legislative recommendations based on facts and evidence in the areas of mental illness, school safety and gun control."

In light of the events in Newtown, said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, "the public rightly expects us to deal with gun safety, school security, and mental health issues in a comprehensive way that will have a real impact on reducing violence. Public safety is an ongoing challenge and a top responsibility of government. This approach will help ensure the legislature is able to act decisively, quickly and in a bipartisan fashion on these critical issues."

House Republican Leader Larry Cafero, whose district covers New Canaan, added, "It is our sincere hope that we can come together and reach consensus on legislation that will safeguard our children and society as a whole while at the same time honor our constitutional rights. Our response must be reasoned and well- crafted if we are to be successful in our common goals."

Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney said, "The evil of gun violence has touched too many Connecticut families. It is our goal to work in a bipartisan way and rise above politics to put in place common sense policies to reduce incidents of violence, increase access to mental health services and improve school security."

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin added, "Last month's tragic events in Newtown have left all of us asking how it could have been prevented. As a father of two elementary school age children and someone who works with children in the school system, I'm confident that Republicans and Democrats can work together to ensure that our schools and children are kept safe."

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