This week, gun restriction advocates suffered a defeat in the Democratic controlled state of Vermont. Both houses of the legislature have been planning to introduce new gun control bills. The Senate’s proposal was to go further than the House until this week when Democrats withdrew a ban on assault weapons.
The State House’s legislation, H. 124, cosponsored by 11 Democrats and one Independent, seeks to ban high-capacity magazines, require background checks, and require a firearm safety course for all those who carry a concealed weapon.
Vermont has the oldest unrestricted concealed carry laws in the nation; similar laws have recently been adopted in Wyoming, Alaska and Arizona.
The author of the House bill, Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson (D-Essex Junction) does give a little to gun advocates by removing the state’s ban on silencers. The bill also has a provision that addresses mental health.
The Senate bill that was withdrawn by Senate Majority Leader Philip Baruth (D- Burlington) would have made it a crime to manufacture, posses or transfer semi-automatic weapons and large capacity ammunitions.
But even Baruth could not find the support in a Democratic controlled State Senate, where Republicans make up only 23 percent of the body.
Progressive gun advocates were outraged and planned on taking the fight to town meetings across the state — in Vermont, town meetings have the sovereignty to pass local laws. One gun restriction advocate, Bob Williamson, said, “I’m pragmatic, and I’ve been at this long enough to know that I know it’s going to be a long haul.”
Williamson is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, where severely restrictive gun laws have led to more homicides than U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan.
According to Valley News, Republican State Sen. Joe Benning said during a lunch with Baruth that the Republicans were not going to support the ban. Baruth replied that he “couldn’t find anyone in the Democrat caucus who would support his bill either.”
Democrats in Vermont recognized that, being a rural state; there wouldn’t be intense support for such a law. According to Valley News, State Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Bethel) stated, “[In] 23 years, he has never supported gun control in Vermont, and it’s because Vermont is a rural area and firearms are part of rural life.”
Some other Democrats acknowledged firearms weren’t the only way to kill someone. State Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Dainsville) said, “I wish we could legislate against evil.” She also was opposed to the assault weapons ban.
Author Bill Kauffman wrote, “Vermont has long been a mixture of radical, conservative, and populism.” It’s very much ingrained into the state’s character, which has allowed it to remain true to its roots, despite going from solidly Republican to solidly Democrat. Vermonters who value their freedoms are not as threatened by any political party as they are by transplants from Chicago or New York who seek to impose the values and laws of the society they left on the new state they call home.