Redding police Chief Douglas Fuchs was one of the many local officials, first responders and family members who testified at the Connecticut Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety public hearing in Newtown on Wednesday, Jan. 30.
“I stand before you this evening as the chief of police of the Redding Police Department, a direct neighbor to the town of Newtown, a resident of the town of Newtown and one whose children attended the Sandy Hook School,” said Chief Fuchs during his testimony.
Chief Fuchs, along with two Redding officers and Redding EMS, was among the first responders to what law enforcement called “an active shooter response to a school.”
On the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, Chief Fuchs was leaving Redding to attend a meeting in Hartford, when as he passed into Newtown, he heard over the radio a call of a shooter in a school.
“While I did not know to which school the Newtown police had responded — as I did not hear the original dispatch— it was readily apparent that my fellow police officers in Newtown were actively engaged in the clearing of one of their schools in response to an invasion of sorts,” said Chief Fuchs in his testimony.
At the public hearing he made six “fairly simple requests — six requests— one for each of those civilian first responder heroes — our teachers and administrators— who did everything imaginable to try and save 20 of our children.”
Chief Fuchs’ requests were to ban high-capacity magazines, restrict assault rifles to law enforcement, give access to mental health records, give police chiefs greater latitude in denying pistol permit applications for cause, require all firearms to be secured, and give Connecticut law enforcement the best tools to protect residents.
“No one has yet to make a cogent argument as to why anyone other than a police officer (or military) needs the ability to fire so many bullets without reloading,” he said about high-capacity magazines.
While admitting to not being an avid marksman, Chief Fuchs said that he was told they are “fun” to shoot.
“I get that. But many would like to take their Ferrari out at 3 a.m. and drive 140 mph on I-84, but we [law enforcement] don’t let them. They might be a very accomplished driver, the traffic virtually non-existent, and their vehicle a finely tuned machine, but for some reason the Connecticut legislature frowns upon that activity,” he testified. “I am also told that some hunt with these types of rifles.”
Chief Fuchs said that a week before giving his testimony, a firearms transfer slip was on his desk to notify him of a sale of a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle to a Redding resident. The rifle was purchased with a hunting license, not a firearms license, he said.
He also said while issuing firearms permits, authority should have access to mental health records.
“Our only check currently is accomplished when the applicant checks no to the question posed on their application,” he said. Police chiefs should have greater latitude in denying pistol permit applications for cause, he said.
“When I denied a pistol permit to an individual who perjured himself on the application, relative to a prior criminal arrest record, I was told by the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners to arrest him for perjury and to issue the permit, as even though he lied about it, the arrest was not a disqualifying offense,” Chief Fuchs said during the public hearing.
His fifth request was to require that all firearms be secured and by a lock that can’t be easily compromised.
His final request, “Give Connecticut law enforcement the tools with which to best protect our residents,” was broken into two sub-points. He said there should be tougher sentences for those who violate gun laws, and every police officer statewide should be given arrest authority for all violations of law, not just felonies.
“On Dec. 14, I stood on the grounds of the school which shares the name of the community in which I live and is now synonymous with what is arguably the greatest national human tragedy of our generation. I implore you to turn that local tragedy into an opportunity,” Chief Fuchs said as he ended his testimony.