By Richard Weizel
HARTFORD, Conn. (Reuters) - A Connecticut panel charged with coming up with ways to reduce school violence after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School plans to urge the state to strengthen its already strict gun laws.
While the state adopted some of the toughest rules on gun ownership in the United States following the attack at a Newtown school that left 20 children and six educators dead, the panel voted on Friday to ask Governor Dannel Malloy to restrict gun ownership further in its final report next month.
Its recommendations included banning the possession of guns or ammunition clips holding 10 or more bullets, and expanding a 2013 law that prohibited the sale of such weapons but allowed continued possession. The panel dropped a recommendation that would have allowed Connecticut gunmakers to continue manufacturing such weapons for sale out of state.
The Newtown gunman, Adam Lanza, used high-capacity clips to fire off 154 rounds in less than five minutes in his Dec. 14, 2012 attack.
"Accessibility to this kind of weaponry is the single most important factor in mass shootings," said commission member Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living.
"While we've spent two years looking at the mental health aspects relating to this horrible event, mental health issues pale in relationship to these kinds of weapons in mass shootings."
It is not clear whether Malloy, a Democrat, or state lawmakers will act on the recommendations. The right to gun ownership is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and new efforts to restrict it typically face staunch opposition from the powerful gun lobby.
"There's no way the state legislature is going to ever approve banning all guns with 10 or more rounds," said Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. "Anyone who wants to carry out a mass murder can easily get such a weapon illegally or by going to another state."
Former Connecticut gunmaker PTR Industries last year relocated to South Carolina, a state the company's management said was more welcoming.
Lanza, a former student at Sandy Hook, began his massacre by shooting dead his mother at their home, driving to the school where he carried out his rampage before turning his gun on himself as police arrived.
The panel expects to complete its report by the end of this month and submit it to Malloy in mid-February.
(Editing by Scott Malone. Editing by Andre Grenon)