CHICAGO (CBS) — State lawmakers have begun a new effort to figure out strategies for heading off school shootings, like the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, when a gunman killed 20 students and 6 staff.

Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), who chairs the bipartisan Violence Prevention Task Force, said it’s important to understand the Sandy Hook massacre was not an isolated incident, and could happen elsewhere.

“According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there have been 160 mass casualty incidents in the United States since the year 2000. There have been 1,043 casualties, including 486 killed and 557 wounded,” he said.

Harris said Sandy Hook, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, and other such shooting sprees all were preceded by warning signals that were not understood or mishandled.

First Lady Diana Rauner, who is president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund – an early childhood nonprofit group – said problems start long before someone takes a gun to school.

“It is, of course, most common to think about violence prevention when children are large and dangerous, but the reality is that the seeds of resilience, and of quality mental and social emotional development, are laid in the very first years of life,” she said.

Rauner urged the task force to keep the focus and funding on early childhood intervention programs.

She joined other social workers, educators, and police officers who testified at the task force’s first meeting on Monday, and spoke of the need for closer coordination between schools and government agencies; as well as adequate funding for all those tasked with preventing school shootings.

House Speaker Michael Madigan announced the task force’s formation last week, and said it would seek to find ways to provide help to children who might suffer from mental illness, and to study the state of Connecticut’s report on the Sandy Hook shooting to determine steps Illinois could take to prevent a similar school shooting here.