As a debate on gun control ramps up in the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, one Canadian safety expert says more emphasis must be placed on helping young children overcome behavioural problems before it’s too late.

Stu Auty, president of the Canadian Safe School Network said parents should feel comfortable knowing that, by and large, Canadian schools are safe places for children in part due to stricter gun laws.

Auty said after an incident like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, often there is a knee-jerk reaction communities to provide an “immediate fix” in terms of police presence and other security measures at schools. But administrators anywhere cannot cover off every contingency.

“When a domestic conflict occurs and anger is there, somebody wants to solve it. And (if) you’ve got a weapon nearby – look out. That’s a cocktail that’s very, very difficult to contain,” Auty told Canada AM Monday.

Sandy Hook Elementary School had recently implemented new safety procedures and drills, but students and faculty were helpless against preventing the carnage 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza inflicted on the community when he forced his way into the school armed with assault weapons. Auty pointed out that even though emergency responders were on the scene within minutes, Lanza had taken 26 lives.

While lockdown drills and other safety measures are important, Auty said, schools must also look to providing early intervention programs for students who may begin displaying behavioural problems in the first or second grade, typically when a student is six or seven years of age.

“Once you’ve identified a child with a problem, if you don’t sort it out within those seven years, you’re going to have a 15-year-old with very serious problems that is going to be going into the criminal society,” he said.

Auty said it’s imperative that the government tackle mental health issues.

“Regrettably, calamities like this bring the focus in, so let’s make the best of it.”