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January 04, 2013

At Shumlin's Request, NRA Releases Gov's Endorsement Questionnaire

DSC04504A newly-released questionnaire filled out by Gov. Peter Shumlin last fall as he sought the National Rifle Association's endorsement shows how little room there is between the gun lobby's positions and his own.

In the 25-question endorsement survey filled out during his 2012 reelection campaign, Shumlin appeared to side with the NRA in all but one case: he disagreed that the mourning dove should be classified as a game bird — "not on principle," he wrote in the margins, "but because Vermont does not have a viable hunting population of doves, and they are primarily found in backyards and roadsides."

On every other issue, though, Shumlin was all in on gun rights:

Does he want to close the gun show loophole in Vermont? No.

Would he support a state ban on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines? No.

Does he support mandatory gun locks? No.

Does he believe Vermonters should be restricted to buying one gun a month? No.

Does he believe guns or gun-owners should be licensed in Vermont? No.

Shumlin's answers help explain why he earned a 92 percent rating from the NRA last fall and a $2500 campaign donation. (Shumlin may have lost points for the 'mourning dove' question and for leaving two others blank.)

Seven Days has been seeking a copy of Shumlin's answers to the survey since December 17, shortly after a gunman opened fire on a school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 young children and six teachers.

Shumlin's campaign manager said at the time she did not keep a copy of the questionnaire. The NRA did not respond to a request from Seven Days to provide it. But after the paper asked Shumlin this week to request a copy from the NRA himself, his staff obtained it and passed it along to Seven Days.

Here it is — after the jump:

Gov. Peter Shumlin's 2012 NRA Endorsement Questionnaire

Shumlin's position on gun rights became the topic du jour Thursday during a press conference he held to announce several cabinet and staff changes.

Clearly irked by a story penned Tuesday by the Burlington Free Press' Terri Hallenbeck, Shumlin brought up the topic himself — and then found himself answering questions on a subject he's sought to avoid discussing for the remainder of the press conference.

In Hallenbeck's story, she notes that Shumlin has argued on nearly every issue — from health care to same-sex marriage to nuclear power to marijuana — that Vermont should lead the way on progressive legislation, regardless of what the federal government or other states do.

"He disregards cross-border complications with the argument that Vermont can send a message to other states, show how things are done," Hallenbeck wrote. "This argument seems to transcend all issues except gun control. That, Shumlin says, is a federal issue."

When Hallenbeck asked Shumlin a totally unrelated question on education policy during Thursday's press conference, the governor shot her a look and said, "I just want to point out I just pointed out that the federal government can lead on some areas of government, like taxation."

[Awkward pause]

"But not on all?" Hallenbeck responded.

"I just want to point out that I'm consistent," Shumlin said.

Asked if he was referring to Hallenbeck's story — and whether he disagreed with its thesis — Shumlin said he was and he did.

"Listen, there are areas where a governor must lead and areas where the federal government must lead. And what I feel very strongly is that it's up to me to lead when the federal government isn't," Shumlin said. "The federal government is not leading on single-payer health care. They won't even say the word. They are not leading on renewables. So most of them don't believe climate change exists down there in that House of Representatives, as I understand them."

Are they leading on gun control?

"Well the last I saw, the president of the United States held a press conference, asked the vice president to lead a group that would come up with a national policy to deal with the crisis that we have before us and get results," he said. "So I have confidence in them to do their job. They're addressing it."

Asked later whether Vermont should lead the way if the feds fail to address gun violence, Shumlin said no.

"The problem... is that the single state-by-state solution, in this case, won't work," he said. "In the case of health care, we can actually get single payer health care for Vermonters. The rest of America will wish that they were we. We can actually build renewables and have a cleaner carbon footprint — and, frankly, in the future, I believe, cheaper, more reliable energy. The rest of the states might not choose to do that. In the case of this challenge, if you can buy a gun in another state or on the Internet or at a gun show, Vermont does not have the power to solve the problem. It's that simple. It's common sense."

[If you're still confused about when Shumlin believes Vermont should lead and when he thinks it should follow, be sure to read this transcript of the press conference exchange dutifully typed up by Green Mountain Daily's John Walters. Warning: It may leave you even more confused.]

Shumlin also briefly addressed the NRA survey he filled out during his reelection campaign, saying he stood by all his answers. While that questionnaire asked whether he supported an assault weapons ban at the state level, it did not ask any questions relating to federal policy.

In a round of interviews with Vermont reporters last week, Shumlin indicated that he would support whatever recommendations come out of a presidential task force on gun violence led by Vice President Joe Biden. Those recommendations are expected to include a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Vermont Public Radio's Bob Kinzel, understandably, extrapolated that to mean Shumlin, too, backs a federal assault weapons ban.

But Shumlin appeared to walk that back Thursday. Asked whether he supported such a federal ban, he said, "If it applied to all 50 states and was sensible, I'd obviously consider it. But since I don't vote on federal bills — I'm not a member of Congress, I'm not the President of the United States — it's not something I spend a lot of time worrying about."

You'd consider — or you'd support? I mean, that's different.

"I want to see what they come up with," Shumlin said.

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