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Congressman Joe Courtney

Representing the 2nd District of Connecticut

Courtney Releases Testimony Opposing Griswold Gun Range

March 6, 2018
Press Release

(Norwich, CT) —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) released the testimony he has submitted to the Public Safety and Security Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly for a hearing on H.B. No. 5304, An Act Concerning the Firearm Training Needs of The Department of Emergency Services And Public Protection. Since 2015, Courtney has opposed plans to locate a new firearms training range in eastern Connecticut and has called for the use of alternatives to meet State Police training needs.  

“Since 2015, the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services has attempted to identify a location for a new training range. And for these last three years, I have been deeply concerned about the ongoing efforts to place this facility in towns across eastern Connecticut – in every instance over the strong objection of local citizens and municipal leaders,” wrote Courtney in his testimony.

“In my own view, I believe that the state agencies involved have allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good. It may be that the East Haven range does not meet every training need of the State Police – although the fact that the range is built to the high requirements of the United States Army, and has trained Connecticut Guardsmen in Iraq and Afghanistan, leads me to conclude that it is sufficient for the State Police in many respects. If that is the case, then I believe that the focus of the agencies should be on finding areas where current facilities do meet training needs – and, where gaps may remain, to focus on how best to address those specific gaps.”

The full testimony is below:

“Thank you for holding a hearing on H.B. No. 5304, An Act Concerning the Firearm Training Needs of The Department of Emergency Services And Public Protection. This bill addresses an ongoing source of concern in the eastern Connecticut region I represent in Congress – the construction of a major new State Police training range over the objection of local residents.

We all agree that Connecticut’s State Police plays a critical role in protecting our communities and enforcing the law. We rely heavily on the State Police in eastern Connecticut, as many of our smaller towns do not maintain their own police departments and are served solely by troopers.  I have seen firsthand the tremendous work that our troopers do, and the risk they put themselves in on our behalf, to protect our communities and our families. I strongly support ensuring that they have the resources and support to provide the training and education they need to stay ahead of the increasing threats they face. 

Since 2015, the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services has attempted to identify a location for a new training range. And for these last three years, I have been deeply concerned about the ongoing efforts to place this facility in towns across eastern Connecticut – in every instance over the strong objection of local citizens and municipal leaders. For example, in the Town of Willington, the town initially cited as the location for facility, a referendum in opposition to the range was voted on by the residents and passed overwhelmingly by a margin of 878-194.   And mostly recently, in the Town of Griswold a similar referendum was held and the town voted in opposition 437 to 63. 

While this is primarily a matter for the Connecticut General Assembly and the State government agencies it oversees, I became publicly involved in this matter as a Federal official due to my concern that an existing alternative, which I helped secure federal funds for, has not been fully considered as a possible way to address the near term needs of the State Police while avoiding further conflict with a community in my district. As a member of the House Armed Service Committee, I helped to advocate for and secure $14 million in federal funding in 2008 for the new Connecticut National Guard firing range in East Haven. This facility, which is now in operation, features an 8 lane Combat Pistol Qualification Course, a 12 lane Tube Range, and a 20 lane Basic 10/25 Meter Firing Range.

These facilities can support a broad range of weaponry and training scenarios, with fully automated targets and computer driven target scenarios. The ranges are also fully baffled for noise reduction. Notably, the ranges are regularly used by other federal and local law enforcement agencies.   In 2016,  General Thaddeus Martin offered testimony during  that there were 220 days available for use by other agencies at the range and it is my understanding there remains sufficient capacity to support expanded use of the facility by the Connecticut State Police.

I support the goals of H.B. No 5304 to require a re-evaluation of state police training needs and the use of existing state and federal facilities to meet them. However, I would also urge you to consider requiring the use of an independent entity outside of the agencies named in the bill to conduct this review. Since I first become involved in this issue in 2015, I have repeatedly called on DAS to review alternatives to the construction of a costly and disruptive new training range in eastern Connecticut communities. Regrettably, the consistent response to me from the agencies has been to reject all alternatives aside from the construction of a new facility.

For example, in a November 13, 2015 letter to Connecticut Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Melody Currey, I urged DAS to “consider the potential use of existing firing ranges and training sites in Connecticut before moving forward on … a new training center.” In a May 2, 2016 letter to Commissioner Currey, I urged that the agency take “a fresh look at the options available to the state.” On June 2, 2016, I wrote again to the commissioner urging that DAS set aside the push for a new facility as the only option for meeting the training needs of our troopers and bring in in an outside consultant to evaluate alternatives.

In my own view, I believe that the state agencies involved have allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good. It may be that the East Haven range does not meet every training need of the State Police – although the fact that the range is built to the high requirements of the United States Army, and has trained Connecticut Guardsmen in Iraq and Afghanistan, leads me to conclude that it is sufficient for the State Police in many respects. If that is the case, then I believe that the focus of the agencies should be on finding areas where current facilities do meet training needs – and, where gaps may remain, to focus on how best to address those specific gaps. For example, the East Haven range could be used for basic qualifications while other facilities, such as the existing Simsbury range and the academy range in Meriden, could be upgraded to meet other unique or additional requirements for the State Police. Other options, such as modern computer-based simulation to train members on dynamic decision making scenarios or state-federal cooperation in expanding the existing National Guard range, should also be considered.

Additionally, as a member of the Congressional Readiness Subcommittee that oversees military installations and base closing authority, I would share that joint multi-agency use of facilities helps to elevate their military value and underscore the joint nature of the investment should our state ever face another base closing round in the future. Notably, the State of Connecticut is already partnered with the United States Department of Defense in improving another federal military facility in our state, Naval Submarine Base New London. Potential application of a similar approach towards augmenting the East Haven range to improve the capabilities for our federal and state military, as well as our State Police, would send a powerful message if there is ever another federal base-closing round.

In closing, I appreciate the time your committee is taking today to consider this important issue for the people of Griswold and for the entire eastern Connecticut region.”

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