Video + Story: Gun owners rally at Statehouse to protest fee bill, Burlington charter vote - VTDigger

Video + Story: Gun owners rally at Statehouse to protest fee bill, Burlington charter vote

Gun rights advocates Sunday gathered on the Statehouse steps for a three-hour rally to oppose votes the Legislature could take in the next two months about guns.

The protesters wore blaze orange hats, held signs, waved “Don’t tread on me” flags and cheered for speakers who called on lawmakers to preserve Vermont’s gun laws, which are regarded among the most lenient in the nation.

Organizers said approximately 700 individuals attended, based on the number of raffle tickets handed out. About 200 were on the steps at 2 p.m.

Gun owners at the rally said protecting their right to bear arms is about more than hunting.

“I wanted to show my support for the Second Amendment and show my displeasure in the politicians that want to slowly erode our rights as individual to protect ourselves from criminals and, if it had to come to it, our politicians,” said Arthur Wood of Waterford.

The advocates gathered to protest two gun-related measures that could come up for a vote before the legislative session ends in May.

The first is a possible change to the Burlington city charter. Voters in the Queen City last week approved three measures that would tighten gun ordinances.

Lawmakers typically quickly rubber-stamp municipal charter changes, but in this case, legislators have said they may delay approval of the Burlington ordinances until next session.

Protesters Sunday called on legislators to act now, long before the November elections. They also booed Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson, an Essex Democrat who has proposed several unsuccessful gun control measures and has attempted to find middle ground on the issue with representatives of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.

The activists also demonstrated against a measure designed to create better storage facilities for firearms surrendered by people subject to relief from abuse orders.

A broad fee bill, H.735, contains a provision that would allow sheriffs to create guidelines and charge a fee to store surrendered guns. The bill also authorizes federally licensed firearms dealers to hold the guns.

Guns are often held by friends or relatives because of a lack of safe storage facilities. Advocates for victims of domestic violence, law enforcement officials and others say this option is insufficient and potentially dangerous.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, a gun rights advocate, supports the gun storage provision.

“The governor is optimistic that this common sense approach, similar to provisions in other states, will prevail in the Legislature,” Shumlin spokeswoman Susan Allen said Monday in an email.

The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, said it initially supported the measure but now is unsatisfied with the current version of the bill, which has passed the House floor and is before the Senate Finance Committee.

Gun Owners of Vermont opposes the bill altogether. An attorney for the group, Cindy Hill, wrote a legal analysis of the bill. She says the proposed law would create “a program for the illegal seizure of private property.”

“This bill outlines a process to effect a seizure of private property,” she wrote.

The state statute regarding relief from abuse orders does not explicitly say all persons must surrender firearms, but it gives judges discretion to include that as a provision.

Judge Amy Davenport, chief administrative judge for the Vermont courts, Monday said relief from abuse orders often specify that the person should not possess guns.

There is no way to know how many relief from abuse orders each year include a provision to surrender firearms, Davenport said.

In cases of a relief from abuse order, police cannot take a person’s firearms unless he or she surrenders them freely. They cannot, for example, search the home of someone who has been issued a relief from abuse order.

“The problem is (the law) doesn’t necessarily say you will turn your firearm over to the police,” said state police Major Glenn Hall.

When someone does surrender his or her firearms, however, Vermont State Police store them at barracks around the state. Record keeping is spotty and often guns are stored with evidence in the only secure space, Hall said.

“It’s not just about putting the gun in a room. Somebody’s got to follow up,” he said.

Keeping track of surrendered firearms is a duty often thrust on a barrack’s evidence officer, Hall said. Local police departments may have even fewer resources or facilities, he said.

Relief from abuse orders typically last for a year. Emergency orders are often ordered first, for 10 days, then a hearing is held when a final order can be issued.

Frequently people turn their guns over to a relative or friend, Hall said, because there is no storage facility.

The fee for storage would give sheriffs the job of handling storage and tracking, Hall said.

Hall could not estimate approximately how many firearms Vermont State Police hold in cases of restraining orders, but said it is likely more than 100 and “a constant flow.”

Laura Krantz

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  • Kim West

    What I am not seeing here is the outrage that personal property can be taken just for being suspected of domestic violence. That is like taking my car because you suspect me of speeding. It is outrageous and even non gun owners should be nervous about this bill.
    Some of the perceptions perpetuated by the media are that Vt. gun owners are extremist right wing animal killing neanderthals. Nothing could be further from the truth. We come in all shapes and backgrounds.
    What boils my blood are the woman who stand in front of the cameras with their babies and try to tell everyone they are protecting the children. Taking away my right as a mother to defend my children in the event of a home invasion is what is endangering the children. Just the fact that I may have a handgun keeps the criminals from entering my home, and they want to take that away from us. I am ashamed of them, could they sink any lower than exploiting their own children while threatening the safety of all children in Vt.?

  • sandra bettis

    a gun in the home is more dangerous for your children – read the statistics. these people don’t even want criminals to lose their guns so how can you have a reasonable conversation with them? they are all too willing to threaten anyone who wants to reduce their arsenals.

  • sandra bettis

    and they want to kill the kid looking for drug money who breaks into your house – since when do we give the death penalty for breaking and entering???

    • Sandra, what would you do if you were home and some thug breaks into your home. Maybe, talk nice words to them as in an interview, once you determine why they are there you can then reason with them. But, one word of advice, don’t look at their faces, they will be sure to shut your eyes, no witnesses –

      • krister adams

        Ray: You’re paranoid. No guns = no death = no suicide.

        I know you will now call me a panzy but who really is the panzy?

        • Kim West

          Are you saying that if we get rid of guns there will be no deaths and no suicide? You can’t honestly believe that. Check the stats on deaths and suicides that do not involve a gun. Note that if all guns go away those numbers will go up, not down.

    • Amy Alexander

      I live alone and if you break into my house in the middle of the night, I will consider you a threat and you will be confronted with a loaded 12 gauge. Period.

      You need drug money, get a job. You’re hungry, go to the food shelf. Do NOT enter my home and threaten me. I don’t take assaults on me in my home lightly.

      I don’t want to shoot anyone – and I’ve been told by the police I would have been justified in the past when I didn’t – but, I’m not going to be a victim again.

    • Kim West

      Sandra, we don’t WANT to kill anyone but we don’t want to die to prevent that. Often situations can be diffused without having to pull the trigger. Women often can not physically defend themselves from a stronger attacker, the gun levels the playing field.

  • sandra bettis

    they wave signs that say ‘come and get it’ with a picture of an assault weapon then call themselves sane and reasonable???

    • Patrick Reilly

      The flags say “Come and Take It”, (not “come and get it”) which is a tribute to the Gonzalez flag of 1831 though the statement dates from 1778 in Georgia.

      These people are not threatening you. They are law abiding citizens whom the state continually seeks to regulate and restrict under the sanctimonious guise of “common sense”. After all, who can argue against common sense! What is sane or reasonable in thinking that the state has a right to a person’s private property without due process?

      HOMICIDE IS ALREADY ILLEGAL. Your laws will not help prevent a damn thing and when the next shooting occurs we will hear about the next obvious “common sense” step we need to take to ensure it never happens again. This is from folks who don’t understand the very basics about firearms yet seek to regulate them based on perceived dangerousness. You can keep your 5.56 AR-15s. A semi auto 7.62 is far more effective and it doesn’t even have that evil pistol grip. Anyone with basic knowledge about guns would have known dangerousness is a function of ballistics, not appearance.

      While full civilian disarmament is not the goal of all in the gun-grabber movement, it is the stated goal of enough of those in power to make it “common sense” for us to know we have to oppose everything proposed as the threats will not cease until the power hungry elites have their way. They are protected by officers with guns but we mere civilians can’t be trusted to protect ourselves…

      PS A gun in the home (of a moron) is more dangerous for children, but sadly gun laws will not cause an increase in common sense by ignorant owners anymore than anti-texting laws prevent me from seeing 20 texters on the way to work each day. If the possible death of their child isn’t enough to encourage some people to safely store their guns then do you honestly think a small fine and a possible short jail term would make a difference?

      PPS If someone violates my rights by breaking into my private property with the intent of stealing from me they give up their rights to safety. Do I ever want to have to do this? Certainly not. How the rights of the FELON are more important to you than the victim is disturbing.

  • Faeterri Silver

    Yes, I would shoot anyone who enters into my home with (and I hate to have to now) my doors locked! I am a single woman living alone; you know I will protect my life before any drug addict or thief were to injure me.

    • Kim West

      No according to them your supposed to allow yourself to be harmed or killed rather than shoot an innocent person entering your home illegally to steal from you.

    • krister adams

      Faeterri: Do you have children, partner, parent, friend who has a key? What if they unlocked your door and entered and you shot them? That would suck, yes?

      • Patrick Cashman

        By all means, if you don’t trust yourself with a firearm then don’t get a firearm. However the fact you don’t trust your neighbors with a firearm does not deprive them of their right to a firearm.

      • Kim West

        My husband has returned unexpectedly and I know enough about what I am doing that I did not shoot him. What you people don’t understand is we don’t want to shoot anyone, we will have to live with the fact that we took a life for the rest of our lives. But we will be alive to do so.

      • Patrick Reilly

        Below are the 4 basic rules of firearm safety. They are known by all responsible gun owners. The irresponsible owner scenario you describe is a very infrequent occurrence which points to an uneducated owner.

        The 1st Law – The Gun Is Always Loaded.

        The 2nd Law – Never Point The Gun At Something You Are Not Prepared To Destroy.

        The 3rd Law – Always Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Behind It.

        The 4th Law – Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target.

        People don’t just open fire at noises without confirming that there is in fact a grave threat to their safety. That hypothetical scenario is irresponsible beyond words. Every shot fired is a liability to the gun owner and to fire a weapon at a human being is a life changing act not done on a whim. Your assumption that this is a normal situation speaks to the (willful?) ignorance common among many who wish to have the State limit our rights as law abiding citizens. The national instances of firearms being used for personal defense (even without being fired) vastly outnumbers the incidents of accidental discharges or shootings and even firearm deaths. If you only listen to the nightly news reports you will never know this. You need to do your own research.

        You may decide to remain unarmed but if I have the skill and knowledge required to protect myself with a firearm you have no right whatsoever to limit my natural right to self-defense provided I do not harm others or their property. If I do then I can be held liable, but not before. I can understand the fear of the anti-gun crowd if they honestly believe the wild west stories they use as examples. Of course what is not shown on the nightly news are the situations where a firearm is used to save lives.

        A few days before the Sandy Hook murders a gunman ran into the Clackamas Town Center mall in Oregon. He murdered two people. At a later point a concealed carry permit holder drew his pistol but DID NOT fire due to the possibility of civilians in a store behind the shooter. After seeing that person countering his threat the gunman killed himself as a mass shooter typically does. This was just a few days earlier than SH, but few remember it because the body count wasn’t high enough for the nightly news and the incident was ended by a legal gun owner which doesn’t fit the narrative they wish to portray to the typical “who got voted off Dancing With The Stars?” citizen.

        And know that not a single item being proposed would have prevented any of the recent mass murders. That is why gun restrictions came up was it not?? I understand the politicians need to be able to point to the “something” they did regardless of whether it actually had a benefit, but why the population blindly believes their statist garbage is beyond me. This country was not created by people like that, nor will it be sustained by folks who would so easily give away their natural rights.

        You folks can keep your politicians, I’ll keep my guns.

        • sandra bettis

          the first law is the gun is always loaded? do you realize that you are arguing AGAINST your side??

          • Patrick Reilly

            The statement is meant to demonstrate a respect for the firearm. It is not to be taken literally, however every responsible owner treats every gun AS IF it is loaded at all times.

            That said, any firearm intended to be used for self defense is useless unless loaded when in service. A gun fires when the trigger is pulled. Stating that a gun is always loaded, even if it was to be taken literally is NOT arguing against my side unless you are of the belief that guns are dangerous in and of themselves. Those beliefs are only held (in my experience) by those very unfamiliar with guns in general.

  • Kim West

    Vermont has the lowest crime rates in the country because we have guns in the homes. If gun laws worked there would not be more than 43 deaths by guns in a month in Chicago. Suicide by guns is not even worth mentioning in a suicide assisted state. If not guns then drugs, or knives. If one wants to take their life they will with or without a gun. If someone breaks into my home I guess I should stop him and ask him or her their intent. If all they want is money then I should just give it to them? Before or after they cause me physical harm? Children raised in responsible homes with guns grow up to become responsible gun owners. None of the legislation proposed to date in this state addresses the criminal gun owner, they all are just a tactic to grab all guns.
    Janice your stats are off. Read this from the State of Vermont 2013
    “In 2012, of the 13 homicides of adults, 4 were deemed domestic violence
    related thus 31% of our adult 2012 homicides were domestic violence
    related. Of the 4 adult domestic violence related homicides, 1 was
    committed with a firearm and 3 involved blunt trauma. 1 of the cases
    was a murder/suicide tragedy. 3 of the cases involved family members
    residing together and in those cases all 3 of the victims were elderly with
    their ages ranging from 71 to 99. 1 case involved estranged intimate
    partners. ” STATE OF VERMONT
    REPORT 2013

    • Walter Carpenter

      “Vermont has the lowest crime rates in the country because we have guns in the homes. ”

      Can you prove this? Is it only because of this or are other factors involved as well? And if Chicago did not have gun control the murders there would probably be double or triple what they are now. Without having the time to research it at the moment, it would be a safe bet that many of those guns used in Chicago are coming from surrounding states with lax gun laws.

      • Kim West

        the fact that we have some of the lowest crime rates in the country and yet the areas of higher crime have strict gun controls laws is proof enough for me and thousands of others. In Vermont the problem is not broken, there is no reason to fix it. If it’s working why change it no matter what the reason?

      • Patrick Reilly

        So you are saying that two to three times as many folks in Chicago would commit homicide if not for the strict firearm laws? That’s like saying I don’t drive down Church Street at 60MPH running over people because I don’t want a moving violation on my motor vehicle record (or scratched paint even.)

        What Chicago needs is parents who educate their children on right and wrong. Hard to do when the father usually isn’t in the household.

        Maybe if the courts would harshly punish those who use a gun in the commission of a felony we’d have fewer gangbangers and criminals on the streets to commit the murders. Maybe then we wouldn’t have the attack on legal gun owners trying to turn them into felons through mala prohibita laws instead of mala in se laws.

  • Alex Darr

    I was there at the rally and I support the positions held by those at the rally. We can’t allow the people obsessed with so called “safety” strip us of our liberties. There is a calculus of safety and liberty, and too many restrictions on us results in a police state. Don’t punish those of us who have never committed a serious crime by taking away our guns.

    • krister adams

      I’m not entirely sure what it says about our society that many folks will vehemently defend the right to own a weapon but will not, with the same vigor, defend children’s rights, animal welfare, environmental destruction, etc., et6c. Sick & sad.

      • You are right. Let’s protect the children — and let’s use the same ideas that appear in the recent gun laws passed in NY, MA & CT.

        Speeding in school zone? How about 3 years mandatory minimum prison sentence?

        Passing a stopped school bus? How about 10 years — or maybe 20 to life.

        Obviously — you have not read these laws and have no idea how what gun owners are facing just a few miles from my house.

      • Kim West

        You can’t know that we don’t

        • OK — so that is WORSE — you have read and become familiar with the recent DRACONIAN, viscous and mass criminalizing new laws in NY, MA, CT — and think they are swell.

      • Patrick Reilly

        I’m not entirely sure what it says about our society that many folks willfully support a Government monopoly on violence. I find it disgusting how little we’ve learned from history.

        I support Wounded Warrior Project, Naval Special Warfare Foundation, the Sons of the American Legion, and my local Chittenden County Animal Shelter.

        I also support ethical hunting. PETA would prefer the “biological surplus” animals in any given environment would simply die from disease or starvation over a long cold winter as opposed to having an ethical hunter kill the animal humanely and use all of its meat to feed his or her family. PETA ignores the thousands of animals who would die of natural causes due to overpopulation in an area with limited resources.

    • Kim West

      Thank you Alex

  • Amy Alexander

    I have a relief from abuse order and have been told by the State Police that there is nothing they can do when the guy violates it. Really? Okay, the next time he breaks into my house, I WILL do something about it.

    A year ago, I purchased a stove from Lowes and two guys from NY delivered it on a Saturday. The HUGE black guy was installing it while I stood and chatted with the hyperactive Hispanic guy. I was a little nervous about these two strangers in my home but got a chuckle when the Hispanic said “I would never break into a house in Vermont!” When I replied, “well that’s good but why do you say that?” He pointed to the black gun leaned in the corner behind the radiator by the back door and said “every single house we go to has a gun by the door”. I had to chuckle and said “Smart man.”

  • I invite everyone to READ and become familiar with the recent DRACONIAN, viscous and mass criminalizing new laws in NY, MA, CT.

  • William Floyd

    This article is reasonably fair and the reporter is not the problem. Please refer your comments to the issues and not to each other. Be civil and the world will see us as regular folks as opposed to “gun nuts” with a paranoia complex. Although the media is often hard pressed to get crowd estimates right, the article at least attempts to give credence to what we knew to be true. We had 800 plus participants over the three hours of the main event. At some times the crowd appeared closer to me to about 6oo plus as some left to escape the cold.
    Keep in mind that the GunSense crowd has consistently failed to turn out even 200 people at a “rally” and there “vigils ” are always comprised of the same 45-50 folks regardless of which town they gather in. We are stronger, we have the Constitution on our side and history shows our position to be true. All roads lead to confiscation and tyranny. The anti-gunners wave the bloody clothes of dead children and scream safety and security. They have forgotten their own history as most are from the Civil Rights movement strain of liberal activists. They have forgotten that Martin Luther King, Malcom X and even Abbie Hoffman all had paid, armed security. Why should not the average citizen and the children of Newtown also deserve the same? That is the difference between a Constitutional Republic and a Democracy, the Republic does not allow it’s corrupt and cynical politicians to vote away their basic rights. The Democracy simply floats with the Tyranny of the Majority, a way that always leads to dictatorship and fascism. Beware anyone waving the twin flags of “common sense” and Democracy. I am not a victim and I refuse to live in a a nation led by cowards. You are warned!

    • Patrick Reilly

      Great argument. It’s disconcerting that something as basic as our form of Government needs to be explained to so many.

      • sandra miller

        “All roads lead to confiscation and tyranny. ” This statement is the essence of the paranoid hysteria put forth by the NRA/pro unlimited guns . . . they’re coming for you, so you need to have your arsenal ready.
        Vermont has a low crime rate because everyone has guns? Vermonters demonstrate a high degree of civility and respect.
        Frankly, your right to own and carry guns in public places ends where my right to be safe begins. Congratulations to Burlington for standing and doing the right thing!

        • Bob Pierre

          Sandra says,”Frankly, your right to own and carry guns in public places ends where my right to be safe begins.”

          Please support your statement with a fact from Vermont.
          Here in Vermont, citizens have been carry concealed without any requirements for over 107 years!
          I have not heard of any rash of public shootings here.
          You don’t feel safe? Is this feeling something new because of the bogeyman press or some recent revelation?

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