By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) â¿¿ Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged Connecticut lawmakers Wednesday to work with him to prevent tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, saying gun rights and public safety must be balanced but "freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher."
The Democrat said he believes the state and society must find better ways to respond to people with mental health needs, while striking a balance between respecting individual rights and the obligation to protect the public.
"And when it comes to preventing future acts of violence in our schools, let me say this: more guns are not the answer," Malloy told a joint session of the General Assembly during his State of the State address. "Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom."
After the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre last month, the National Rifle Association responded, in part, by calling for trained, armed volunteers in every school in America.
Malloy said Wednesday that such measures are "not who we are in Connecticut" and it should not be "who we will allow ourselves to become."
The governor became emotional as he spoke about the teachers and a therapist who sacrificed their lives to protect students at Sandy Hook, apologizing after having to pause during the 26-minute televised address to gain his composure. His wife Cathy wiped back tears as she watched her husband.
The specter of the Dec. 14 massacre, which left 20 first graders and six staff dead, as well as the shooter and his mother, shadowed Wednesday's ceremonies at the state Capitol. With many lawmakers and officials wearing green and white ribbons representing Sandy Hook's school colors and with Newtown's first selectman and superintendent of schools in attendance, both Democratic and Republican leaders urged their colleagues to be respectful of one another and cooperative, especially in light of the tragic event that's focused the world's attention on Connecticut.