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5:13 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

A Month Later, Many Questions Remain In Newtown, Conn.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

It's been more than a month since the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The horrific attack shocked the country and reignited a national debate about gun violence. But investigators have released little information that might explain a motive: What drove Adam Lanza to shoot and kill 20 first-graders and six educators, as well as his own mother, before taking his own life? As Jeff Cohen of member station WNPR reports, it looks as though formal answers won't come until summer.

JEFF COHEN, BYLINE: Governor Dannel Malloy sat in front of what's called the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission. It's a panel he assembled with the goal of coming up with public policy recommendations after Newtown. The focus is on mental health, public safety and guns. This was the commission's first meeting, and Malloy underscored the gravity of its purpose.

GOVERNOR DANNEL MALLOY: This is an extremely important commission report that each and every one of you will own for the rest of your lives.

COHEN: But the commission will also face a big hurdle. It probably won't have any more information than it does now about exactly what happened at Sandy Hook, nor will state lawmakers who are now in session and are looking to act. Stephen Sedensky lives in Newtown. He is also the state's attorney responsible for the investigation into what happened there on December 14th.

STEPHEN SEDENSKY: Our current estimate is that it will take several months for the state police portion of the criminal investigation to be completed. We are hoping for sometime this summer, perhaps in June.

COHEN: Once the state police are done, Sedensky says his job will be to decide if any prosecutions are warranted.

SEDENSKY: Though no such prosecution currently appears on the horizon, I am sure that you can appreciate that all leads need to be investigated and evidence examined before final decisions and statements are made. The families and the public deserve nothing less.

COHEN: There are a few details we do know. Adam Lanza's computer, which police reportedly found heavily damaged in the Lanzas' home after the shooting, is being analyzed by the FBI according to sources aware of the investigation. We also know that guns were legally purchased. And we know specifically which guns were used.

The state police recently issued a press release saying Lanza left a 12-gauge shotgun in his car. Inside the school were the Bushmaster rifle with a high-capacity magazine and two handguns. State police say Lanza killed his victims at the school with the rifle, and he killed himself with a handgun.

But none of that gets to Lanza's motive or to his mental state. And Sedensky says he likely won't be able to discuss Lanza's medical history with the commission at all because that information is protected by privacy laws. The commission also heard from former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who sat on a similar panel following the Columbine shootings in 1999. He said public policy recommendations are important. But he also said this.

BILL RITTER: When there's no criminal trial, when the perpetrators have taken their own life, in a sense, the commission becomes a place where people air their grievances, where they publicly grieve and just understand that they may be at a place where they're very angry, they may be at a place where they're very vulnerable. They may be at a place where they're still wrestling with why and how. And that's just the way it is.

COHEN: And Ritter says that means it's the commission's job to allow victims to be victims. For NPR news, I'm Jeff Cohen in Hartford. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.