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Connecticut elementary school shooting

State police are responding Friday to reports of a shooting at a southwestern Connecticut elementary school.

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With memories of last week’s school massacre still hauntingly fresh, most students in Newtown will return to class Tuesday with their sense of normalcy shattered.

They’ll see more police and more counselors in their buildings. But nothing can erase what happened to 20 other students across town at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Survivors from Sandy Hook won’t return. Their school is still a crime scene.

It’s not clear when they’ll go back to class, but when they do it’ll be at a different school in neighboring Monroe, Connecticut.

As investigators dig deeper into what led to this mass tragedy, two victims — a pair of 6-year-olds — will be buried Tuesday.

Meanwhile, more details about the gunman are slowly emerging. And under the cloud of national mourning, a renewed debate about gun control is heating up.

The investigation

A former director of security for Newtown Public Schools shed new light Monday night about the gunman, Adam Lanza.

Richard Novia said Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome, based on documents as well as conversations with Lanza’s mother, who was killed shortly before the Sandy Hook massacre.

Novia said as part of hisjob, which he left in 2008, he would be informed of students who might pose problems to themselves or others for whatever reason.

He also said he received “intake information” — which he said “is common for any students troubled or impaired or with disabilities.” The idea was to keep track of and help students who may need it.

However, Novia said he never thought Lanza was a threat and certainly never thought he was capable of such violence.

Russ Hanoman, a friend of Lanza’s mother, previously told CNN that Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome and that he was “very withdrawn emotionally.”

But CNN has not been able to independently confirm whether Lanza was diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, a higher-functioning form of autism. Both are developmental disorders, not mental illnesses.

Many experts say neither Asperger’s nor autism can be blamed for the rampage.

“There is absolutely no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a linkage between autism and planned violence,” the AutismSocietysaid in a statement. “To imply or suggest that some linkage exists is wrong and is harmful to more than 1.5 millionlaw-abiding, nonviolent and wonderful individuals who live with autism each day.”

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist and autism expert at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, also said the gunman’s actions can’t be linked with autism spectrum disorders.

“Aggression and violence in the ASD population is reactive, not preplanned and deliberate,” he said.

For example, sometimes children with autism will get violent because they are sick or frustrated and unable to communicate how they feel.

Meanwhile, authorities are investigating the remnants of the shooter’s smashed computer, trying to find e-mails he may have sent and websites he may have visited in hopes of understanding what he was thinking, a law enforcement official said.

Gun control

What happened in Newtown should never happen again.

Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate agree on that sentiment. But they’re at staunch odds about how to turn words into reality.

The grassroots group Newtown United is sending a delegation to Washington on Tuesday to meet with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as well as families from July’s movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado.

The new group, which formed out of Newtown on Sunday, aims to create meaningful dialogue — both locally and beyond — about what may have led to the tragedy.

Until school shooting, 1 homicide in almost a decade

Two national polls conducted shortly after the Newtown shootings suggest more Americans want stricter gun control:

In a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 54% of adults favor stricter gun control laws in the country, while 43% oppose.

And a new CBS News poll indicates 57% of Americans back stricter gun laws, the highest percentage in a decade; 30% think gun laws should be kept as they are.

However, less than half of the respondents in the CBS poll — 42% — think stricter gun laws would have helped prevent the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia and a “proud gun owner,” said he’s now committed to “dialogue that would bring a total change” after the massacre in Newtown.

“Who would have ever thought, in America or anywhere in the world, that children would be slaughtered?” he said. “It’s changed me.”

The debate is playing out not just in Newtown and Washington, but across the United States.

John Licata told CNN’s iReport there needs to be better vetting before people buy guns, and assault weapons should be banned — something Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, says she’ll propose once the new Congress convenes in January.

But some say the shooting illustrates the need for more armed guards — and possibly armed teachers — in schools.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said if school districts decide arming teachers is the best way to keep schools safe, so be it.

If Texas residents are duly background-checked, trained and have a concealed-handgun license, “you should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in the state,” Perry said, according to CNN affiliate WFAA.

Gun owner Jameson Riley of Colorado said recent mass shootings have made him consider getting a concealed weapon permit.

“I have a 2-year-old daughter, and she is the light of my life,” Riley said. “And I would like to protect her.”

Out of respect for the Newtown victims and their families, Dick’s Sporting Goods has removed all guns from its store closest to Newtown, the company said.

Dick’s, one of the largest sporting goods retailers in the world, has also suspended the sale of some semi-automatic rifles nationwide, the company said.

It was unclear how long the Dick’s will keep its suspension of “modern sporting rifles.”

Two very premature funerals

While adults and children try to move on, two more 6-year-olds from Sandy Hook will be laid to rest Tuesday.

Jessica Rekos was obsessed with horses — horse books, horse movies, drawing horses and writing stories about them. She was eagerly anticipating a pair of cowgirl boots for Christmas.

As her relatives grieve, they are also “trying to help her brother Travis understand why he can’t play with his best friend,” her family said.

Charlotte Bacon was a bundle of energy under her distinctive red curls. She also loved school and dresses, her grandmother told CNN affiliate WCCO in Minnesota.

Charlotte will also be buried Tuesday.

The series of funerals will carry on for days. Some residents in this emotionally drained community plan to attend multiple funerals this week.

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Funerals held for 2 victims of Conn. shooting

Local News
12/17/12

Local gun control heats up

High profile Illinois democrats put the issue of gun control front and center Monday, just days after the shooting in Connecticut.

Governor Pat Quinn, among them, and spoke out on the Connecticut school shooting.

“One way to keep faith with those victims of that massacre on Friday is for Illinois, in the heart of the heartland to ban assault weapons,” he said.

The Rev Jesse Jackson talked assault weapons ban on the WGN Morning News .

“These military style weapons can bring down airplanes, they can bring down buildings, they can shoot people in mass with the pull of a trigger,” he said. “We must get these weapons off the street and out of our houses.”

Chicago’s police superintendent Garry McCarthy said his concern lies in gun over production not just an assault weapons ban.

“There’s no other economy on earth where supply so outweighs legitimate demand,” he said.

But Illinois State Rifle Association executive director Richard Pearson says stricter laws shouldn’t focus on guns, but mental health.

“Everyone of the things that have happened, the person has been mentally unstable so we need to get a handle on that and get that done first,” he said.

Mayor Emanuel, who still has influence with the White House, told a Chicago police graduating class Monday, the National Assault Weapon Ban, which expired in 2004, needs to come back.

The governor says its likely Springfield will take up an assault weapons ban in its January session.

At a shooting range in Lombard,  its not more gun laws needed, they say. Barry Soskin, owner of Article II Gun Range says the system is broken.

“If I have a mental problem, and I go to somebody, my neighbor shouldn’t find out about it.  But I’ll be damned if my gun shouldn’t be taken away,” he said. “That’s what we need here and we’ve lost that.”

We reached out today to The National Rifle Association and several state lawmakers who’ve voted in favor of gun rights in the past.   All of whom either did not return our calls or did not want to comment.

It’s the conversation schools nationwide are likely having this week: Just how secure are our children?

There are some critical steps when it comes to securing a school and Paul Timm,  a RETA security consultant,  says the bells and whistles can cost you but good security doesn’t always have to.

RETA isa 2nd generation company started back in 1984.

Sadly, Timm says schools are often reluctant to prioritize security until tragedy strikes.

His priority when securing the classroom is communication first. 2-way radios or walkie talkies, PA systems indoors and out and even emergency phones peppered throughout the school.

And when it comes to access control, he says one door in and the same  door out for all visitors.

In a pinch, to tighten security, some area schools quickly turned to the basics: Emergency drills and lots of them.

Increased police presence outside the school is another approach.

Timm wants to see visitors at every school turn over their state ID’s until they are ready to leave, have them checked and screened on the spot for criminal history.  Wearing labels at all times he says is a must. Timm wants them hanging from a colored lanyard so they are easy to spot and easy to identify any outsider.

Cameras at $2,000 -$3,000 a lens are costly, but effective. Timm says only as effective as your hard drive, however.  Keep images and data for 30 days before deleting and don’t spend good money on bad cameras. The images are everything, especially at a soft target like an elementary school.

He goes on to say today’s best technology is in virtually everyone’s pocket.  He said schools can tap into the same tablet technology we see everywhere and use apps that can even be shared by first responders and school administrators to avoid or reduce the effects of a determined intruder.

There’s a story behind every life taken in the Connecticut shooting spree.

A picture of  some of the victim’s is a little clearer today.

Six-year-old Jack Pinto loved sports – especially football. His favorite player was New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz paid tribute to him by writing “Jack Pinto, My Hero” on one of his cleats and “R.I.P. Jack Pinto” on the other.

Noah Pozner, also 6, lit up the room.  His aunt says he was a bit rambuctious and knew exactly how to get whatever he wanted by batting his long eyelashes and looking at you with his big blue eyes.

Six-year-old Ana Marques-Greene enjoyed playing playing piano and singing with her brother, Isaiah. Her family had moved to Connecticut two months ago from Canada.  They were drawn to Sandy Hook Elementary School, in part, because of its sterling reputation.

Seven-year-old Grace McDonnell was the ultimate “girly girl.”  “Gracie” – as her grandmother called her – loved wearing pink and playing dress-up and was always smiling.   She also loved art, gymnastics, soccer and her small spaniel, “Puddin.”

Subsitute teacher Victoria Soto, 27, has emerged as a hero.  She died trying to shield her students from the gunman.  She was the oldest of 4 kids and had wanted to be a teacher since she was three.

Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, died while lunging at the gunman.  The married mother had two daughters and 3 step-daughters.  They say their mother was always there for them, despite her busy work schedule.

In the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, school systems around the chicago area are viewing and reviewing their school safety plans.

Chicago Public School principals and teachers are being urged to review their emergency management plans.

In suburban Riverside, police officers are outside schools in an effort to help the children feel safe.

Chicago’s school board is reminding educators that public school entrances must be locked when class is in session.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says every school has a security plan, and he’s asking all school officials to review their plans thoroughly.

Grief counselors will be available at all schools Monday; and the school system has more than a thousand security officers.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has helped put the issue of gun control back in the spotlight.

20-Year-old Adam Lanza shot his way into the school in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.

He then shot and killed 20 students and six adults.

Lanza was armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle and two handguns.

Many lawmakers now want to bring back the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, after its ten year term.

“I’m going to introduce the bill in the senate and the same bill will be introduced in the house. A bill to ban assault weapons,” said California Senator Dianne Feinstein on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Feinstein says her bill would outlaw high capacity magazines and military-style assault rifles, like the one that was used in Newtown.

On Fox News Sunday, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert suggested that the tragedy would have ended differently if the school’s principal had been armed.

“So when she heard gunfire she pulls it out, and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,” said Gohmert.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says lawmakers will hold hearings on gun control.

“It’s time for the president, I think, to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do, not go to Congress and say, ‘What do you guys want to do?’ This should be his number one agenda,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

At a time when Newtown should be reveling in holiday cheer, the grief-stricken community will begin the grim task of lowering 20 little coffins into the ground.

Six-year-old Jack Pinto, whose love for sports ran the gamut but none so deep as football, will be laid to rest Monday.

Noah Pozner, another 6-year-old, whose family said he could get what he wanted just by batting his long eyelashes, will also be buried.

And the heartbreaking ritual will continue for days.

Jessica Rekos on Tuesday. Benjamin Wheeler on Thursday. Madeleine Hsu, Friday. All of them 6 years old.

But even after the families of the 20 children and six educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school say their last goodbyes, it’s unlikely the tight-knit community will ever be the same.

“It’s incomprehensible, the pain here,” resident Darla Henggeler said. “You can’t imagine. We’re still in shock. I can’t let my heart go there because it’s so overwhelming.

“I think once it settles in, I think my heart will break.”

Obama: “These tragedies must end.”

In Newtown High School’s packed auditorium, President Barack Obama recited the names of the children slain at Sandy Hook and offered his condolences to the community.

“All across this land of ours, we have wept with you,” Obama said Sunday night.

He also said the country has failed to do everything it can to protect youths from such immense tragedy.

“Can we honestly say we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?” Obama said, adding that “if we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.”

“If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no.”

He noted this is the fourth time in the past two years that a mass shooting has united the country in despair. Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown.

“These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

The president didn’t mention specific steps, but promised to “engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”

His call to action capped an emotional prayer service at Newtown High, in which local leaders of several religions — a Jewish rabbi singing a prayer, a Muslim manchoking back tears, and several Christian leaders offering perspective — attempted to comfort a shattered community. Nine hundred watched in the school’s auditorium, including several children toting teddy bears.

Shortly before Obama’s remarks, the grassroots group Newtown United launched “to create meaningful dialogue, both locally and beyond, around the issues that led to this this senseless act of violence.”

The group plans to send a delegation to Washington on Tuesday to meet with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as well as families from July’s movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado.

Clues on what happened, but not why

It’s possible no one will ever know what led Adam Lanza to kill his mother, Nancy, in their home before taking her guns and raining hell on Sandy Hook Elementary School and eventually killing himself.

Investigators now know the gunman used “an assault weapon” to “literally (shoot) an entrance into the building,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said Sunday.

The nightmare worsened as he moved through Sandy Hook’s halls.

Using a Bushmaster AR-15 “assault-type rifle,” the 20-year-old fired multiple magazines — each of which contained 30 bullets — to gun down the adults and children in two classrooms, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said.

He then took out a handgun and shot himself in a classroom as officers approached, officials said.

All the victims were shotbetween three and 11 times.

“This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen,” said Connecticut chief medical examiner H. Wayne Carver II, who conducted autopsies on seven victims.

The perpetrator had no known criminal record.

His father, Peter Lanza, released a statement Saturday saying his family is “grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy.”

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured,” the father said. “We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We, too, are asking why.”

Relatives carry on the victims’ voices

As more details about the 20 children and six educators emerge, so do stories of heroism and joyous memories of lives cut far too short.

When the gunfire rang out, 27-year-old Victoria Soto scrambled to move her students away from her first-grade classroom door and shielded them in the corner of the room.

It’s not surprising that Soto would risk her life to save others, her mother said.

“She was truly selfless,” Donna Soto said Sunday. “She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children. She loved them more than life.”

Six-year-old Emilie Parker was a budding young artist who would have been the first to console the victims had she herself not been killed, her father said.

“She loved to use her talents to touch the lives of everyone that she came in contact with,” Robbie Parker said. “She always carried around her markers and pencils so she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for those around her.”

Emilie’s father also offered his condolences to all the families affected.

“This includes the family of the shooter,” he said. “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family, and our love and support goes out to you as well.”

Noah, one of the boys who will be laid to rest Monday, loved playing with his siblings — especially his twin sister. They still don’t know know how their brother passed away, Noah’s aunt said.

“How do you tell them that’s how their brother died?” Haller asked. “It’s the unthinkable really.”

It’s just as unbearable as the thought of a parent burying a child.

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A group of specially trained comfort dogs from the Chicago area are in Newtown, Connecticut helping residents cope with the school shootings tragedy.

The dogs vistied a makeshift memorial and a church on Sunday.

They will be at after school activities with Sandy Hook Elementary School students on Monday.

Trainers from Lutheran Church Charities say residents can pet the dogs while they talk or pray with volunteers.

The dogs have traveled across the country to support victims in the aftermath of major tragedies such as Hurricane Sandy and the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri.

The memorial in Newtown that started with a few candles, just keeps on growing. There’s another one, larger still, over by the village’s Christmas tree.

Newtown residents were joined in their time of sorrow by the president.

President Obama, like parents across the country, is trying to get his arms around this back in his role of consoler-in-chief.  It’s the fourth time he’s travelled to a city after a mass shooting.

The inconsolable families of the tiny victims- starting to speak, issue statements and release photos of the little ones who won’t be with them this Christmas.  There’s the story of one young survivor, who ran past the gunman to safety after seeing his teacher get shot. He still doesn’t know she was killed.”

“He keeps asking about her,” one parent said, “and I think he’s reassuring himself that she’s going to be OK. He really, really, really cared about his teacher. He was very close with her, and she really loved that class. And, he keeps saying, “I really hope she’s OK. I hope it’s not her.””

Police say their investigation’s progressing rapidly; that it was an ar-15 bushmaster assault-style rifle the gunman used in the school– one of two pistols that he used on himself that he had hundreds of rounds of ammunition, likely prepared for a larger massacre that may have been cut short.

Police are withholding a lot of information– reiterating Sunday night that there are a lot of answers they just do not have. They are promising another update Monday morning.

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