Sandy Hook anniversary nears, what's changed?

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - The nation will mark the first anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14, a year when Virginia passed school safety bills in a matter of months, while leaving laws on background checks unchanged.

Just days after the massacre, Vice President Joe Biden selected Petersburg Police Chief John I. Dixon III to serve on his gun safety task force. In an interview Thursday, Dixon said he is encouraged by the progress made by several states across the country, but laws at the federal level do not go far enough.

"I think this will always be on America's conscious, forever," Dixon said. "[Improved gun control] is happening state by state. But we need to have a good strong federal push for this."

Laws on universal background checks failed in the U.S. Senate and did not advance in the Virginia General Assembly. But in June, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed 12 school safety bills that are now in effect.

The new laws create grants for Virginia school districts, allowing them to purchase new security systems and fund anti-bullying programs.

A month after the tragedy, President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders to combat violence, including a landmark study examining the causes of gun deaths in America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the task to the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, two groups that finished the project in a matter of months.

The study found that mass shootings in America are still relatively rare. In the past 30 years, there have been 78 shootings when a gunman killed more than four people. A final copy of the report also noted that the use of guns in self defense happens just as frequently as the criminal use of firearms.

Read the entire report here:

The study concludes that no decisive data exist on the effectiveness of programs intended to reduce mass shootings.

"Although communities, schools, and campuses have developed myriad safety plans, there is very little information available about their effectiveness," the study notes.

The authors went on to recommend more studies, concerning whether community based actions are effective.

Despite the findings, Dixon said his mission when he first visited the White House following Sandy Hook remains the same.

"I think the focus is to make sure that these weapons don't get into the hands of the wrong people," Dixon said. "People who are dangerous, people who should never have weapons in the first place."

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