Gun Board Member Charts Own Path

M. Peter Kuck is seeking to revive his lawsuit against the state Board of Firearm Permit Examiners. (JOHN WOIKE)

"Mr. Kuck has his perspective. It's different from mine and I'm the chairman," Corradino said, explaining it his responsibility to keep the meetings orderly and moving along. "Sometimes we don't have time for philosophy."

On Malerba, Corradino said: "I didn't see it as a nothing case," although he was among those who voted to return Malerba's permit.

Malerba's attorney at the hearing was Rachel M. Baird of Torrington, a prominent firearms-rights lawyer in the state. She is also Kuck's lawyer in his federal lawsuit. The opinion issued by the attorney general after the suit was filed did not address whether it was a conflict for Kuck to rule on cases brought by his private attorney.

But Corradino, a senior assistant state's attorney in Bridgeport, said it's not a practice he would follow.

"Let me just say: As a prosecutor, I would never handle a case where my personal attorney was on the other side, and I don't know of any judge who would either," Corradino said.

Baird countered that police agencies have never objected to Kuck's involvement in any of her cases.

"The state has an opportunity to challenge it," Baird said. "And if they don't see it an as an issue, I don't see why I should."

Three years after filing his lawsuit, Kuck shook up the board a second time, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down Chicago's handgun ban. The decision limited how far a state could go in experimenting with different gun-control laws in an effort to reduce violence. But the court also endorsed language in a brief that stated, "State and local experimentation with reasonable firearms regulations will continue under the Second Amendment."

Kuck, however, saw the decision as fully at odds with Connecticut's statute.

"In my opinion the use of Connecticut's vague and capricious suitability standard has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because it is experimentation and local variation," he wrote in a letter to the board in July 2010. "Therefore when an appellant comes before the board with no federal disqualifying factors and the appellant meets Connecticut eligibility factors I will vote for the appellant."

Kuck has since softened that position, but still is troubled by the way police apply the suitability standard.

"Do I think that the suitability clause can be applied arbitrarily and capriciously? Of course I do," he said. "No two chiefs are going to have the same policy on suitability."

In deciding cases, Kuck follows a simple principle. "If I wouldn't feel comfortable if he had a gun and were standing behind me, I don't want him to have a permit," Kuck said. "That'd be insane."

Kuck is also outspoken beyond the board, frequently offering testimony at the legislature opposing expanded authority for the state police or bills he believes infringes on Second Amendment rights. He was particularly vocal after legislators this year voted to enact strict gun-control measures following the Sandy Hook massacre.

"You stupid, bloody damn fools. You have attacked the state and federal constitutions," Kuck wrote in an email to legislators. "From this point on your oaths are worthless and your name is Mudd."

Kuck offers no apology for his harsh choice of words.

"The Constitution means something," he said. "What were they supposed to swear to when they took office? To preserve and protect the Constitution. If they can't do that, what does it mean?

"Constitutional rights are always very important. Always," Kuck said. "Because once they're gone, you can't get them back."