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January 20, 2013

Baruth to Withdraw Bill Banning Assault Weapons

This just in from Senate Majority Leader Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden): He's abandoning an attempt to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Vermont.

In a statement emailed to Seven Days Sunday evening, Baruth says he's planning to withdraw a gun control bill he introduced in the Senate just last Tuesday. 

The move comes a day after roughly 250 gun rights activists rallied at the Statehouse in opposition to Baruth's bill and other measures to restrict access to firearms.

In a three-paragraph statement, Baruth wrote that it's "painfully clear to me now that little support exists in the Vermont Statehouse for this sort of bill" and that he feared the legislation "may already be overshadowing measures with greater consensus."

He also acknowledged that his newly won leadership position in the Vermont Senate may have been a factor, writing, "I owe it to my caucus to remove an issue that seems increasingly likely to complicate our shared agenda this biennium."

We'll have more on Baruth's decision — and its ramifications — later this week, but for now, here's his statement in full:

After much thought, I’ve decided to withdraw S32, a proposed ban on assault weapons. It was a difficult decision, and one I fear will disappoint those who have written expressing their support. I began thinking about the bill after the Gabby Giffords shootings in Arizona, thought more seriously about it following Aurora, and had it finally drafted in the wake of Sandy Hook. It seemed to me that with the Federal government paralyzed, it had been left to the states to address both the mental health and gun-related components of these tragedies.

But it is painfully clear to me now that little support exists in the Vermont Statehouse for this sort of bill. It’s equally clear that focusing the debate on the banning of a certain class of weapons may already be overshadowing measures with greater consensus, like tightening background checks, stopping the exchange of guns for drugs, and closing gun show loopholes. Finally, as incoming Majority Leader, I owe it to my caucus to remove an issue that seems increasingly likely to complicate our shared agenda this biennium.

To the many responsible gun-owners with whom I’ve communicated over the last several weeks: I’ve heard you. Please hear me when I say that government is not your enemy — we are all alike threatened by the kind of violence we saw in Newtown, violence that is clearly spreading. And all of us are responsible for stopping it. It’s my hope that with this ban set aside, you’ll join more willingly in that effort.

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