Burlington should encourage other
towns and cities around the state to propose their own charter
changes related to firearms, the Vermont legislature's leading
gun-control advocate told a city council committee on Monday.
"The more towns you have
presenting charter changes on this, the more it will prod the
legislature to do something," said State Rep. Linda
Waite-Simpson (D-Essex Junction). She added that it will be more
difficult for the legislature to reject a charter change related to
gun control if other municipalities join Burlington in advocating
The city council's charter change
committee is hearing testimony related to a proposed ordinance that
would ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips in the
city. The full council voted 10-3 in favor of further considering a resolution containing
those restrictions that was offered in January by City Councilor Norm Blais (D-Ward 6).
He and the other two members of the
charter-change committee seemed receptive to Waite-Simpson's
suggestion. Councilor Tom Ayres (D-Ward 7) said it would be vital to
"try to have rational and respectful discussions" with
residents of the Northeast Kingdom, "where there's bound to be
opposition" to gun control of any sort.
Waite-Simpson (pictured) noted she has received
assurance from legislative leaders that the issue will be taken up in
local meetings after the current session ends. The hope is that
consensus can be reached on some aspects of gun control, she said.
Waite-Simpson's own set of proposed regulations never got to the
floor of the Vermont House despite the emotional upwelling that
followed a lone gunman's massacre of 26 first-graders and educators
in Newtown, Connecticut, late last year.
Many Vermonters' resistance to any
restrictions on guns remains unyielding, Waite-Simpson said. She
cited two examples of the state's status as an outlier.
In an especially crushing blow to Leahy, the Senate even rejected a bipartisan measure he authored that would have cracked down on gun traffickers and straw purchasers. Cosponsored by Maine Republican Susan Collins and endorsed by the National Rifle Association, Leahy's amendment nevertheless fell two votes shy of the 60 necessary for passage. It had been expected to sail through on a voice vote.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy had been charged with ushering the various gun measures to the floor and securing passage of at least some of President Obama's priorities in the wake of December's deadly shootings in Newtown, Conn.
But to no avail.
Leahy did not immediately comment on the votes Wednesday. A spokesman said he would do so Thursday.
Here's what's happening in Vermont news and politics this week. Got a newsworthy event for next week's calendar? Email by Friday to submit.
Monday, April 15
At 10 a.m., Burlington bigwigs (mayor, police chief) and law enforcement will hold a press conference at the U.S. Attorney's office in Burlington on the "heroin epidemic," which has rather suddenly replaced prescription opiates as the scourge of Vermont.
That whole assault-weapons ban in Burlington thing? The city council's charter change committee takes it up today. At the very convenient time of 11:30 a.m. in city hall.
Vermont's health care reform is important — but damn confusing. Hear Mark Larson, director of the Office of Health Care Access, explain it live at 5:25 on Channel 17.
Shortly before the U.S. Senate voted to debate a polarizing gun-control bill Thursday morning, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) delivered an impassioned plea to his colleagues to "stand up and be counted."
In a 10-minute speech on the Senate floor, Leahy repeated that refrain over and over again, appearing as if he was seeking to shame his fellow senators into voting on the legislation, regardless of where they stood.
"Stand up and be counted! Stand up and be counted!" he said, nearly shouting. "Don't give speeches saying you're in favor of law enforcement, but we're going to take away the tools law enforcement needs. Stand up and be counted. Stand up and be counted."
Calling Republican efforts to stall debate an "ill-conceived filibuster," Leahy said, "Americans across this great country are looking to us for solutions and action, not filibustering or sloganeering. Americans are saying, 'Stand up and be counted.'"
Watch the full video here:
Not long after Leahy's speech, the Senate voted 68 to 31 in favor of taking up the legislation. The bill includes several provisions passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, including a measure the Vermont senator wrote that cracks down on gun traffickers and "straw" purchasers.
The legislation received a major boost earlier this week when Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) signed off on a bipartisan plan to extend background checks to unlicensed firearms dealers. The bill does not include more controversial proposals, such as a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, though such measures will likely reappear in the form of amendments on the floor next week.
The others who voted in favor of debating the bill were Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 49 other Democrats, 16 Republicans and another independent. Two Democrats and 29 Republicans opposed ending the filibuster.
Vermont and Arizona don't have a whole lot in common. The Grand Canyon State has blazing hot deserts, we shoveled out our cars on the first day of spring. They're mostly red, we're deep blue. They've got scorpions, we've got moose. So what links our two states, apparent opposites geographically and politically? Gun rights.
Guns & Ammo magazine released its list of the best and worst states for gun owners last week, and Vermont tied with Arizona at the top of the heap. The magazine's graphic, at right, confusingly says Vermont is number 2 and places the state in the crosshairs (why shoot Vermont if it's awesome for guns?), but the Green Mountain State and the Grand Canyon State are level on points atop the list. Each came one point short of a perfect score.
Vermont's cities and towns will see a few newcomers taking office this week after Town Meeting Day. Here's to small-town democracy. It's also gun-control advocates' turn to rally at the Statehouse on Wednesday, and the week ends with St. Patrick's Day on Sunday. (Here's a reminder that you shouldn't drink green beer and you REALLY shouldn't drink Irish car bombs on Sunday.)
At least six towns in the region are considering a largely symbolic resolution that instructs federal and state lawmakers to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require criminal background checks for every gun sold in the United States, and make gun trafficking a federal crime with real penalties for "straw purchasers," or those who purchase arms for those barred from doing so.
It's a proposition that voters in Hartland approved this morning after a tense but mostly civil Town Meeting Day floor debate about the possible merits or perils of gun control. While plenty of residents weighed in with their skepticism about the resolution — criticizing it as vague, unnecessary and a waste of time — the supporters ultimately carried the day.
"I'm tired of doing nothing, and I'm tired of our legislators being intimidated by a small, small lobby group with a lot of money," said Michael Heaney.
According to the poll results, half of all Vermonters have a gun in their households, and most people surveyed said they favor stricter controls on the sale and use of firearms.
Among the findings:
84 percent favor requiring strict reporting from mental-health professionals to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS).
75 percent favor closing the so-called "gun show loophole."
66 percent favor banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
61 percent favor banning further sale of assault weapons.
54 percent favor making it illegal to own an assault rifle.
Even among gun owners, there's majority support for gun-control measures: 88 percent of Vermont gun owners surveyed favor requiring mental health professionals to report NICS; 71 percent back closing the gun show loophole; and 55 percent favor banning the sale of high-capacity ammo clips. Also, 50 percent of gun owners favor banning further sales of assault weapons. On the question of making it illegal to own assault weapons, though, only 40 percent of gun owners favored that.
This week's Seven Days is the annual love and marriage issue. (That's the Pinterest-inspired cover over on the right.) Rest assured that despite the wedding bells, this week's news and politics stories are as contentious as ever.