At a town hall meeting last week on school safety at the Classical Magnet School in Hartford, I got to hear firsthand how Connecticut is leading the nation in adopting common-sense solutions to reduce gun violence and improve school safety.
In the aftermath of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, the courage and resilience of teachers, parents, children, and communities in the Newtown area has been nothing short of remarkable.
From Governor Dannel Malloy to state lawmakers to the members of the Sandy Hook Promise, the entire state worked together to pass comprehensive legislation to reduce gun violence.
Unlike here in Washington, Connecticut's lawmakers didn't defend the status quo or shrink from tackling difficult questions. With bipartisan support, they enacted a comprehensive law to help curb gun violence and mass shootings that does not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and hunt.
Connecticut's leaders have set an example of political courage that can teach a lot to Congress and the rest of the nation. At today's town hall meeting, Governor Malloy talked about how he decided to press ahead for new gun violence prevention measures, despite fierce attacks from the NRA.
By contrast, in Washington, Congress has so far failed to take the sensible step of expanding the background check system to close loopholes that allow criminals and the mentally ill to buy guns.
Those loopholes make no sense--and 90 percent of the public backs expanding background checks. I hope that Congress soon takes up universal background checks again.
Both the state and federal government are lending a helping hand in the recovery of Newtown and surrounding communities affected by the violence at Sandy Hook. At today's town hall, Governor Malloy and I announced two new grants to help in the recovery process.
Under Connecticut's new Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety Act, signed into law by Governor Malloy last month, Connecticut will provide $5 million to municipalities to boost school security. State funding will go to schools with the most need--buildings with little or no security infrastructure in school districts that are struggling financially.
At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education will provide a $1.3 million Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant to the Newtown Public School District to assist the community in recovering from the shootings.
The Project SERV grant will help fund grief support groups for siblings who lost classmates, skill-based counseling for students suffering posttraumatic stress, security guards, an academic-booster summer session for students, and many other services.
Our efforts to assist the recovery of Newtown from this tragedy are only the beginning of the steps that our schools, communities, Congress, and our country must take to ensure our children grow up safe and free from fear.
Every community needs to appraise its values--and look at whether the community, parents, business leaders, faith-based leaders, political leaders, and schools are doing everything that they can to keep our nation's children safe from harm.
This is a collective responsibility. None of us gets a pass. As a nation, we cannot "move on" and forget the pain and unbearable tragedy of 20 young children and six educators gunned down in an elementary school in a matter of minutes on December 14, 2012.
The students I talked with in Connecticut last week were bright, spirited, and eager to go on to college to get their degrees. They are the faces of the future. Our nation's leaders, our parents and our educators owe it to them and to all our children to do everything in our power to make sure their dreams are not cut short by violence.
Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education