After the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults, the issue of gun control has become a national hot point.
Police Chief Douglas Fuchs said that he and many area police chiefs have talked about what they can do to ensure that gun awareness is raised as a result of this tragedy. He said discussions have revolved around the basic areas of high-capacity magazines, assault rifles, licensing, and storage.
“Other than law enforcement or military, most [of us] fail to understand the need for a civilian to have 10- to 30-round magazines,” said Chief Fuchs. “And those magazines fit into a weapon capable of discharging that many rounds very quickly.”
Assault rifles and high-capacity magazines were developed to kill people “efficiently and/or for military combat,” he said.
“While I am not a hunter, I don’t believe people use assault rifles to hunt — they may, but don’t need to,” he said.
Redding police officers carry high-capacity handguns and high-capacity assault rifles, “as do most law enforcement agencies around the country,” he said. “But an officer with only a handgun should not be easily outgunned,” said Chief Fuchs.
In the state of Connecticut, any person 21 years of age or older may apply for a pistol permit or eligibility certificate or possess any handgun. But in order to posses a handgun, a person must first have a permit in order to purchase a gun from a state dealer.
Chief Fuchs said there is a minimum of 5,000 registered guns in Redding, which has a population of 9,158.
According to the state website, a person may buy a handgun in Connecticut only if, in addition to being a resident, the person has a valid permit to carry pistols or revolvers or a valid eligibility certificate, or if the person is a licensed firearms dealer or a sworn police officer.
Assault weapons, defined “as any selective-fire firearm” capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire at the option of the user, are prohibited in Connecticut unless they are rendered to be inoperable. Law enforcement and military personnel may possess an assault weapon in connection with their official duties. A list of what qualifies as an assault weapon may be found at the ct.gov website.
In order to apply for a pistol permit, a person must submit an application to the local police chief for a temporary permit, which is then submitted to the state for a state permit, said Chief Fuchs.
The permit costs $70 and is good for five years, according to the state website.
“I, for one, would like to see the license process in our state and all states to be reviewed,” the chief said.
Chief Fuchs also said he’d like to see a common platform among states so it’s not easier to get a gun in a neighboring state.
“Set a standard that is acceptable to everyone and maintain that,” he said.
All permit applications are subjected to a background check, but Chief Fuchs said that some applicants lie.
“On occasions when I’ve denied a pistol permit for a suitability factor, most of the time it’s been overridden by the state,” he said. “We can do very little by way of authority to not issue permits.”
If a person is younger than 21, is subject to a protective or restraining order, has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence involving the use or threatened use of physical force or a deadly weapon, or has been convicted in Connecticut for one of 11 misdemeanors, the person is not eligible to be issued a gun permit.
The 11 misdemeanors include illegal possession of narcotics or other controlled substances, criminally negligent homicide, assault in the third degree, assault of a victim the age of 60 or older in the third degree, threatening, reckless endangerment in the first degree, unlawful restraint in the second degree, riot in the first degree and second degree, inciting to riot, and stalking in the second degree.
Other people prohibited from possessing a firearm, according to the state website, include those who have been convicted as a delinquent for committing a serious juvenile offense, have been discharged from custody within the preceding 20 years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect, have been confined in a hospital for psychiatric disabilities within the preceding 12 months by order of a probate court, have been subject of a firearms seizure order, or are illegal aliens or unlawfully in the United States.
There is no requirement for how a person stores a firearm.
“I would like to see a requirement for every firearm to be kept in a safe or suitable locked container,” said Chief Fuchs. “I would like to see them all locked up.”
He said the issue of gun control is “a whole lot larger,” but if the state can’t get past the basics of licensing, safe storage and controlling high-capacity weapons and magazines, “we’re never going to get to the rest of the conversation.”