MORE BLOGS: Bite Club (Food & Drink) | Live Culture (Arts) | Stuck in Vermont (Videos)

Off Message: Vermont News and Politics


March 05, 2013

In Mayor Weinberger's Home Town, Hartland Voters Approve Gun-Control Resolution

Photo (17)Gun control might be a non-starter under Montpelier's golden dome this year, but that's not stopping voters in a half-dozen Upper Valley towns from weighing in on the issue themselves.

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.

Continue reading "In Mayor Weinberger's Home Town, Hartland Voters Approve Gun-Control Resolution" »

February 22, 2013

Castleton Poll: Majority of Vermonters Support Gun-Control Measures

GunsMaybe Phil Baruth should have stuck to his guns.

Poll results released Friday by the Castleton Polling Institute show that a majority of Vermonters support a host of gun-control measures proposed at the state and federal level — including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

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.

Continue reading "Castleton Poll: Majority of Vermonters Support Gun-Control Measures" »

February 06, 2013

This Week's Issue: Lawmakers Take Another Crack at Gun Control; Who's Holding State Police Accountable?

Cover-imageThis 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.

Lastly, one more reminder that if you've got an iPad or iPhone, you can get all the page-flipping satisfaction and pretty layouts of the print edition with our new app. Click here to download it.

January 30, 2013

Leahy to Hold Gun Violence Hearing Today

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today will hold the first congressional hearings on gun violence since last month's deadly school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, is expected to be the first stop for any federal legislation Congress considers in the wake of Sandy Hook. The committee is scheduled to hear from National Rifle Association executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre, along with Mark Kelly, the husband of former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was injured two years ago in a deadly shooting in Tuscon.

Politico is reporting that Giffords herself is set to give a surprise opening statement at Leahy's hearing.

You can watch the hearing, which starts at 10 a.m., here at the Judiciary Commttee's website. It will also be carried live on C-SPAN.

Below is a list of witnesses scheduled to appear.

  • Captain Mark Kelly, USN (Ret.), Americans for Responsible Solutions
  • Professor David Kopel, Adjunct Professor of Advanced Constitutional Law, Denver University, Strum College of Law
  • James Johnson, Chief of Police, Baltimore County Police Department, Chair, National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence 
  • Gayle Trotter, Attorney and Senior Fellow, Independent Women’s Forum
  • Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, National Rifle Association 



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."

Continue reading "Baruth to Withdraw Bill Banning Assault Weapons" »

January 16, 2013

Leahy Receptive to Obama's Gun Proposals But Wants More Detail, Welch Backs Plan

Leahy.StatehouseSen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Wednesday he's amenable to tough new gun-control measures unveiled earlier in the day by President Obama — but he wants to see more detail.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) largely endorsed the president's plan, saying the Newtown school massacre "had a big impact on me, and it's had a big impact on Vermonters."

"It's hard to tell, but I would think there are a couple things people ought to be able to agree on. One is to close the gun show loophole," Leahy said in a phone interview from his Washington, D.C. office. "I would hope that most people would think whatever the rules are, they should be the same for everybody."

Leahy (pictured at the Statehouse last week with wife Marcelle Leahy) was more restrained in his reaction to Obama's proposed ban on assault weapons.

"I haven't seen how he describes it," Leahy said. "I'd like to see what it is. It's like if someone came to you and said, 'I have a car to sell you. Do you want to buy it?' You might say, 'Is it four-wheel drive? What kind of car is it?'"

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy will play a key role in designing any new gun-control laws. He announced earlier Wednesday that he'll hold hearings starting January 30 to consider legislation in response to last month's deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn. 

Leahy voted for a previous assault weapons ban in 1994 and for an unsuccessful attempt to extend it in 2004. He said a focus of his hearings would be to examine whether the expired ban worked.

Continue reading "Leahy Receptive to Obama's Gun Proposals But Wants More Detail, Welch Backs Plan" »

January 15, 2013

Weinberger and Fellow Mayors Call for New Federal Gun Laws

Hollar.WeinbergerFor a politician who typically plays it safe, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger's decision Monday to speak out on gun violence was an uncharacteristic move.

Barely a week before, he and the Burlington City Council were reminded of the strength of Vermont's gun rights community when nearly 100 activists showed up at City Hall to oppose a proposed assault weapons ban.

Apparently, that wasn't enough to dissuade Weinberger from pushing the issue further.

"As the father of a first-grader and as a mayor who gets one of the first calls when someone is shot in this city, I feel a deep responsibility to join the loud call for action now to protect our children and communities from illegal guns," Weinberger said during a press conference Monday afternoon at the Burlington Police Department's North Avenue headquarters.

Standing beside the mayors of Montpelier and Barre, Weinberger announced that he'd joined a national gun control group founded by New York's Michael Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and embraced three of its legislative priorities: to improve the federal background check system, to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and to crack down on gun trafficking.

While hardly breaking new ground in the national debate over gun laws, Weinberger's move was notable in this gun-loving state simply for the contrast it painted with other prominent Vermont politicians, who have mostly sought to avoid discussing gun laws in the wake of last month's deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

By raising the issue himself, Burlington's mayor stood out from the crowd. And for a local politician who clearly harbors statewide political ambitions, that's a risky move.

Continue reading "Weinberger and Fellow Mayors Call for New Federal Gun Laws" »

January 08, 2013

At Highly Charged Meeting, Burlington City Council Takes First Step Toward Banning Assault Weapons

BurlingtonCityCouncil.1.8.13With an aggrieved crowd of gun owners looking on, the Burlington City Council took a first step Monday night toward banning assault weapons and high-capacity clips in the city.

By a vote of 10 to three, the council instructed the city's charter change committee to draft language barring the possession of such guns and ammunition in Burlington and calling for their "immediate seizure by the police."

The vote was merely a first step in a long process that would require yet another vote by the council, public hearings, a referendum and, ultimately, a vote in the legislature to change the city's charter. Nevertheless, to the nearly 100 Vermonters who showed up to the meeting — nearly all men and many wearing camouflage or blaze orange — the proposal was clearly received as an affront to their right to bear arms.

"There's no excuse why we have this ordinance here other than to politicize something that's a knee-jerk reaction," said Burlington resident Michael McGarghan, one of 25 members of the public who spoke out against the proposal during the meeting. "I'm really disgusted that I had to come here tonight and take time out to talk about this."

Continue reading "At Highly Charged Meeting, Burlington City Council Takes First Step Toward Banning Assault Weapons" »

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:

Continue reading "At Shumlin's Request, NRA Releases Gov's Endorsement Questionnaire" »

December 27, 2012

Shumlin Says He Backs Federal Effort to Combat Gun Violence

DSC04317In his first public comments since a mass shooting in Connecticut two weeks ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday he'll support federal legislation being drafted by a presidential task force on gun violence.

"There can't be a human being in America who has seen the events of what happened in Connecticut and not recognize that we have to do everything in our power to bring some sanity to the availability of weapons of war to people who are unstable and crazy. Period," Shumlin said in an interview with Seven Days.

But Vermont's gun-toting governor cautioned that, "State-by-state solutions don't work," and said he wouldn't support efforts in the Vermont legislature to tackle gun violence at the state level.

"If they worked, we would've solved the problem already. We know that if one state has strict restrictions, you can go purchase an assault weapon at another state or gun show," he said. "So I fully support President Obama's and Joe Biden's urgency to come up with a 50-state solution that will work."

Shumlin, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, declined to say what approach he thought the federal government should take, but said it should be "multi-faceted" and include enhanced services for those with mental illness.

Continue reading "Shumlin Says He Backs Federal Effort to Combat Gun Violence" »

Subscribe to the Daily 7

Fill out my online form.
All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684