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September 03, 2013

Empty Homes Near Burlington International Airport Targeted for More Police Training Exercises

Airport7What good are 60 vacated homes awaiting demolition in the high-noise zone bordering Burlington International Airport? Good for training exercises involving local police and fire teams, declares a resolution on the agenda of tonight's South Burlington City Council meeting.

Not according to some airport neighbors and at least one city councilor who recall a training exercise last year that included gunfire and grenade explosions. Several nearby residents complained not only about the simulated shootouts but also about state and local officials' failure to give advance notice that the area was to become a tactical training ground for camo-clad personnel toting automatic weapons.

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September 02, 2013

Gun Play Across from a Burlington Elementary School? It's Legal in Vermont.

Spring st 006Police have responded 29 times in the past year to incidents on the single block of Spring Street opposite the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler in Burlington's Old North End.

Principal Bobby Riley insists both the school and the neighborhood are safe, but Jeff Sherman, a resident of one of the units in the 69-85 block of Spring Street, describes conditions there as "pretty bad." The sense of danger has grown in the 12 years he's lived there, Sherman says.

In February 2011, a domestic assault spilled onto the street in front of the elementary school, whereupon a man fired a shot that didn't hurt anyone. The students were on vacation that week, but Wheeler went into lockdown to protect the staff inside.

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May 20, 2013

Weinberger Reaffirms Support for Gun Control and Urges Additional Action

MiroBurlington Mayor Miro Weinberger reaffirmed on Monday his support for banning assault weapons in the Queen City, and urged city councilors to take additional steps aimed at preventing gun violence.

"You are on strong legal ground to move forward with an assault weapons resolution of some sort, and I support that,” Weinberger told the three members of the council’s charter change committee. He noted that similar initiatives by other municipalities have survived court challenges.

But any attempt by Burlington to regulate possession of firearms would require a change in the city’s charter thus could not take effect unless approved by the state legislature. City Councilor Rachel Siegel, the Ward 3 Progressive who chairs the charter-change committee, said it’s unlikely the legislature would even consider such an initiative until 2015, assuming it was first endorsed by the council and approved by Burlington voters in March 2014.

“More immediately,” Weinberger told the committee, Burlington might be able to adopt another measure relating to access to firearms.

He noted that in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass murder of schoolchildren and educators, 24 communities around the country “have passed resolutions to encourage action to fix the federal background-check system.” This screening process for prospective gun buyers is “badly broken,” the mayor said. He added that Vermont is one of 19 states rated as having done the least to submit data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Weinberger then handed out to committee members a model resolution that urges action to strengthen federal background checks.

“Burlington does have a stake in this, and I’m very much in favor of it,” the mayor said.

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May 08, 2013

This Week's Issue: Why Vermont Domestic Abusers Keep Their Guns; Next Steps for Livable Wage in Burlington

Cover050813In this week's Home & Garden issue of Seven Days...

April 29, 2013

State Rep Urges Burlington Council Committee to Recruit Allies on Gun Control

LindawaitesimpsonBurlington 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 such regulations.

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.

Continue reading "State Rep Urges Burlington Council Committee to Recruit Allies on Gun Control" »

April 18, 2013

Leahy, Sanders Back Gun Control Measures, But Senate Defeats Them

Updated below with statement from Leahy.

They hail from a state with some of the most permissive gun laws in the nation, but on Wednesday Vermont's two U.S. senators embraced the strongest gun-control measures debated in a generation.

Their support wasn't enough.

After casting votes in favor of near-universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) watched all three amendments go down in flames.

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.

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April 15, 2013

The Week Ahead: April 15-21, 2013

The Week AheadPay your taxes!

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.

Rest of the week after the break...

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: April 15-21, 2013" »

April 12, 2013

As Senate Launches Gun Debate, Leahy Says, "Stand Up and Be Counted"

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.

March 20, 2013

Vermont and Arizona Named Best States for Gun Owners by Guns & Ammo Magazine

02-vermontVermont 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.

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March 11, 2013

The Week Ahead: March 11-17, 2013

TheweekaheadVermont'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.)

Andy Bromage is off this week, so send your submissions for next week's political calendar to me instead.

Monday, March 11

7 p.m.: The Burlington City Council meets for the first time since Town Meeting Day. See the agenda here.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: March 11-17, 2013" »

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