At a Feb. 16 Newtown Action Alliance meeting with area legislators at Newtown High School, resident Richard Hutchinson told the crowd a story in the hopes of drawing attention to a local need that had remained on his mind since the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
On Jan. 6, he said, a resident was on his roof when he was hit in the hand by a stray bullet from one of three nearby private properties that are regularly used for target shooting practice. He added the man has the bruised hand — and bullet — to prove it. According to Hutchinson, the bullet came from 1,700 feet away, up the street from where he lives in the southern section of Newtown.
Another resident of the southern section of town, Eric Poupon, said he too was looking to state legislators to take action on a gun ordinance, in hopes that it would lead to change in Newtown. Poupon related this to Patch as he signed in to testify at the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety hearing at Newtown High School on Jan. 30.
Section 128-1 of Newtown's town code prohibits shooting "within 500 feet of a building which is occupied by persons or domesticated animals, unless he has within his possession the prior written permission of the owner or occupier thereof or unless he is on property which he owns or leases."
The law dated back to 1968, said Hutchinson, when housing density was not what it is today, and when gun power was less than what it is today. Many guns have a range of far more than 500 feet; for example, a Colt AR-15 has an effective range of about 600 meters, or 1,968 feet, according to Colt.
Hutchinson said he was "shocked" to learn that shooting (noise) complaints to police doubled in the past year, and told legislators action at the state level could embolden the town to change the ordinance. (A request to the Newtown Police Department for more information on complaints is pending as of Feb. 27.)
"We are not going to come up with all of the answers," said state Sen. John McKinney, R-28. "We are not going to solve the problems overnight ... Newtown should feel free to act whether we do or not."
Legislative Council Chairman Jeff Capeci told Patch he remembered the issue coming before the council in 2012.
"There is an ordinance on the books," said Capeci. "It's in the ordinance committee right now ... They were deliberating on it up until the Dec. 14 tragedy. They haven't met since."
Legislative Council member MaryAnn Jacob is chair of the ordinance committee. Jacob did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Capeci said he'd talked with her about the issue.
"In discussions with her, I think she's interested in picking that up again sometime in the next couple weeks," Capeci said, adding no meeting had been scheduled yet. "In early March, assuming it doesn't get in the way of the budget."
At the Newtown Action Alliance meeting, state Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-106, who was a member of Newtown's Legislative Council until he was elected to serve Newtown's district as a state legislator, said discussions on the town's gun ordinance had been "controversial."
"It was tabled," he said.