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Waterbury police chief testifies at Senate committee hearing on gun safety

The hearing is aimed at looking at steps to reduce gun violence in the country while taking into consideration public health, law enforcement, and community-based ap

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — As the mass shooting at a Colorado supermarket takes the national spotlight, lawmakers in Washington kicked off a series of hearings Tuesday aimed at reducing gun violence.

The hearing hosted by the Senate Judiciary Committee looked at ways to reduce gun violence by taking into account public health, law enforcement, and community-based approaches.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate subcommittee leading the hearings, reacted to the shooting that killed at least 10 people.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough, and yet thoughts and prayers are all we hear from the other side,” he said.

The senator invited Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo to offer a law enforcement perspective on the issue.

“The gun violence that I am most familiar with rarely makes national headlines, but it is just as consequential for the people that it affects," he said. "The toll of daily gun violence that disproportionately affects black and brown communities in cities like mine across the country is a serious problem, requiring serious solutions."

Spagnolo went on to share the steps Connecticut has taken to reduce gun violence, including universal background checks, expanding the state’s assault weapons ban, and the recently passed Ethan’s Law, which requires guns to be safely stored if children might have access to them.

“These all built off of Connecticut’s existing gun laws, including the nation’s first extreme risk law, known in-state as a risk warrant, which allows for a law enforcement officer to petition a court to temporarily separate an individual from firearms if they pose a risk of imminent harm to themselves or others,” said Spagnolo.

Beyond the legislation, the chief also highlighted Waterbury’s community-based approach that includes youth violence prevention programs and post-incarceration violence prevention programs.

They are all actions he said are critical as he noted incidents of gun violence have increased in cities all over the country during the pandemic, including Waterbury.

“Despite these recent setbacks, Connecticut still has one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation, but Connecticut is not an island and without federal action, we remain at the mercy of states with weak gun laws," Spagnolo said. "Over two-thirds of the crime guns traced by law enforcement in Connecticut come from other states."

After the March 23 hearing before the full Committee, Blumenthal will hold a series of Subcommittee hearings to further explore specific reforms.

The Boulder Police Department (BPD) said at least 10 people have died, including a Boulder officer, in an active shooting situation Monday at a King Soopers.

In a tweet Monday, Blumenthal wrote: 

"Editing my opening statement for tomorrow’s hearing on gun violence only to look up & see the news reporting six killed by a gunman in Boulder. How many more lives must be lost before we enact the gun violence prevention our country so desperately needs?"

You can read Chief Spagnolo's full testimony here.



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