Gun Range Proposal is Off the Mark

July 10, 2015

By Senator Tony Guglielmo

If you haven’t heard a swath of land in Willington is on the table as a potential site for a new state gun range. The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), is proposing to relocate its existing Firearms Training Facility and Program located on Nod Road in Simsbury to a new site. The proposed sites are in East Windsor and Willington on Ruby Road. Many residents in town think this is a bad idea. I agree.

Despite two raucous public hearings and lots of letters against the project because of potential for noise, more traffic and environmental pollution the state is still going ahead with an environmental impact study on the Willington site.

Aside from the range of issues a gun facility would bring this is a costly project that should have every taxpayer appalled. Moving the gun range from point A to point B (wherever that ends up being) is a totally unnecessary expense of public funds. The price tag is an estimated $6.5 million to $11 million. The State Bond Commission has not yet signed off on money for this project, but funds have been authorized.

Approval for the project to move forward beyond the environmental impact study – which is required by law – is pending. Land still has to be purchased and construction plans have to be finalized. Ultimately, the plan has to go before the state Bond Commission for final approval and money.

Despite the fact that the people of Willington may be the underdog in this fight – I’m still optimistic. There are many better options for the governor and the state to consider. The alternatives are cheaper and better for Public Safety.

For instance the submarine base in Groton has its own range the Groton New London Sub-base range and it’s available to the state police. They already allow outside groups to use the range. I also spoke with one of the security personnel at the base. He spent six years in the military and 23 years as a local police officer. He told me the range is capable of handling every type of firearm that the state police use. It has the latest in air filtration systems and is state-of-the-art.

In addition the Department of Corrections has a range, as does the Connecticut National Guard.

The National Guard uses Stones Ranch Military Reservation in Niantic. From its military website write up the place is impressive boasting “a multi-use tactical training area for the Connecticut National Guard encompassing about 2,000 acres. It is the only Department of Defense-supported maneuver training site in the state of Connecticut and the only maneuver training area available to the Guard within the state.”

The local police departments also have a number of shooting ranges both private and public at their disposal including:

  • Torrington, when officers have to qualify, train on a new weapon or practice shooting they go to Tactical Arms Indoor Range in town.
  • West Hartford has a range.
  • Canton police use the Metacon range in Simsbury.
  • Farmington’s range is used by many departments in the greater Hartford area. The town’s website clearly states: The department maintains an outdoor firing range. The range is paved and lighted and consists of 18 angled steel bullet traps as well as a training house with full facilities. The range can be used for formal firearms training, for practice shooting, other types of training, and misc. meetings. Authorization for range usage must be obtained from either the training supervisor or the on-duty supervisor.

I would also suggest it is better for Public Safety if State Police Troopers use a variety of different shooting ranges around the state. That reduces their travel time and keeps them in their service area for longer periods of time.

If the local police departments can share why can’t state police?

Cost vs Convenience
I asked the Office of Legislative Research to look into this idea of cost versus convenience. They looked at each gun range located on state-owned property, provide its size by acreage, when it was built and last upgraded, and the cost of upgrades made in the past 10 years. I wanted to know whether it made sense to move a facility at a cost of more than $6 million.

They identified eight gun ranges [PDF]. While located on state-owned property, not all of the ranges are state owned and operated. For example, the range used by the Military Department is federally owned, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) operates two ranges located on state property in cooperation with private entities. The ranges used by Departments of Correction (DOC), Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), are all state owned and operated.

What this proves is that there are many existing shooting range options for our state police. The state however, has to be willing to share. Anyone who would like to voice their concerns can call the Governor’s office at: 860-566-4840 or Toll-Free: 800-406-1527. This is your money.

Senator Guglielmo is a ranking member of the Public Safety Committee and represents the 35th senatorial district.