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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Gun Groups Sue to Strike Down Vermont's New Magazine Limits

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 12:19 PM

Citizens opposed to the new gun legislation gather at the Statehouse before last Wednesday's ceremony. - FILE: JOSH KUCKENS
  • File: Josh Kuckens
  • Citizens opposed to the new gun legislation gather at the Statehouse before last Wednesday's ceremony.
Updated 3:10 p.m.

A coalition of Vermont gun groups sued the state Wednesday, arguing that newly passed ammunition magazine limits run afoul of the Vermont Constitution.

The plaintiffs — the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, the Vermont State Rifle & Pistol Association, two sporting goods stores and one gun owner — are being represented by Brady Toensing, vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party, and Cooper & Kirk, a Washington, D.C., law firm that has represented the National Rifle Association in multiple cases.

The suit, filed in Washington Superior Court, came one week after Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed into law sweeping gun legislation to mandate background checks, raise the purchasing age for firearms to 21 and ban bump stocks, in addition to establishing the magazine limits.

The law prohibits Vermonters from buying magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds for rifles and more than 15 rounds for handguns. The gun groups are seeking an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced while the case is argued.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

As Scott Signs Historic Vermont Gun Laws, Protesters Call Him a ‘Traitor’

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 2:37 PM

Gov. Phil Scott, joined by his wife Diana McTeague Scott, signs the bills into law amid a mixture of applause and jeers. - JOSH KUCKENS
  • Josh Kuckens
  • Gov. Phil Scott, joined by his wife Diana McTeague Scott, signs the bills into law amid a mixture of applause and jeers.
Updated at 8:30 p.m.

Gun rights supporters shouted down Vermont’s Republican governor Wednesday as he signed a trio of gun-control bills into law, transforming the state from one of the most gun-friendly in the nation to one of the least.

Standing on the steps of the Statehouse, Gov. Phil Scott told a crowd of hundreds that it was incumbent upon the state to combat the epidemic of mass shootings that has swept the country in recent years.

“That’s why today we choose action over inaction — doing something over doing nothing — knowing there will always be more work to do,” he said. “But today we choose to try.”

Scott assured his audience that the legislation would not infringe upon Vermonters’ right to bear arms. “What it does not do is take away your guns,” he said. “Period.”

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Vermont Senate Passes Gun Bill, Scott Says He'll Sign It

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 4:45 PM

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe consulting with Sen. Dick Sears during a recess in the S.55 debate - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe consulting with Sen. Dick Sears during a recess in the S.55 debate
Updated 7:10 p.m.

By a 17-13 vote Friday afternoon, the Vermont Senate gave final legislative approval to S.55, a wide-ranging package of gun restrictions. After final review by the legislature's legal team, the bill will go to Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who said after the vote that he would sign it, assuming it passes routine muster by his chief counsel.

"I have every intention of signing it," Scott said. "I made a commitment that I want to do everything we can to provide our citizens with the safety they deserve."

Earlier in March, the Senate approved a version of S.55 that required universal background checks for gun purchases and a 21-year-old minimum age for gun purchases. The House then amended the bill to include a ban on bump stocks and limits on gun magazine capacity.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Vermont Lawmakers Back Bills Allowing Gun Removal in Certain Situations

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 5:11 PM

Gun control opponents look on as the House debates gun legislation Tuesday. - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Gun control opponents look on as the House debates gun legislation Tuesday.
Vermont lawmakers in both chambers advanced two bills Thursday that would facilitate the removal of guns in certain high-risk situations.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of H.422, which passed the House last year and gives police officers the option of temporarily seizing guns from someone cited for domestic violence. And the House approved S.221, which the Senate unanimously passed in February to allow police to get a court order to remove guns from people who are deemed by a judge to be an “extreme risk” to themselves or others. Lawmakers are expected to give final approval to the bills Friday.

In what will likely be a close vote, the Senate on Friday is also expected to approve S.55, which would mandate universal background checks for gun purchases, raise the purchasing age to 21 and ban bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. The House passed the bill Tuesday, and Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint (D-Windham) told Seven Days on Thursday afternoon that she anticipates it will pass the Senate, unchanged, on a vote of 16-14 or 17-13.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Analysis: How Gun Votes Divided the Vermont House

Posted By and on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 11:12 PM

Rep. Jim Harrison - FILE: STEFAN HARD
  • File: Stefan Hard
  • Rep. Jim Harrison
Rep. Brian Keefe (R-Manchester) left the Vermont Statehouse last Friday night after a 10-hour gun-control debate convinced he'd done the right thing by voting "no." He had supported three out of four measures included in the landmark legislation: raising the purchasing age to 21 and banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. But he'd had reservations about the fourth — requiring background checks for all gun sales — so he had opposed the underlying bill.

That night, the House gave preliminary approval to the legislation, known as S.55, on an 85-59 vote.

Four days and another six hours of debate later, Keefe had another chance to weigh in on the bill Tuesday night. This time, the Manchester Republican voted for it, joining an 89-54 majority in sending it back to the Senate.

During those two days of voting, members of the Vermont House considered no fewer than 15 amendments. The abundance of roll-call votes offered an unusually clear and detailed look at how 150 state reps approached the politics and policy of gun laws. Seven Days compiled the results of five of the most controversial amendments, as well as Friday's and Tuesday's votes on the underlying bill, and interviewed lawmakers about their decisions. (See chart below illustrating how each House member voted.)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Vermont House Gives Final Approval to Landmark Gun Bill

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 8:55 PM

Gun rights proponents look on as Vermont House members debate gun legislation. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Gun rights proponents look on as Vermont House members debate gun legislation.
The Vermont House gave final approval to a major piece of gun legislation Tuesday evening, voting for it 89-54 after an extensive debate.

The Senate will now take up the bill, S.55, which would mandate universal background checks, raise the purchasing age for guns to 21, and ban both bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. The magazine ban spurred the most discussion during Tuesday's debate, which lasted six hours and followed a 10-hour debate last Friday.

A last-minute lobbying effort to exempt Vermont gun manufacturers from the ban on magazines with more than 10 rounds was victorious.

Reps. Corey Parent (R-St. Albans) and Eileen Dickinson (R-St. Albans) argued that without such an exemption, the bill would jeopardize hundreds of jobs at Century International Arms, a global firearms dealer with a factory in Franklin County.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Thousands Attend March for Our Lives Rally in Montpelier

Posted By on Sat, Mar 24, 2018 at 4:23 PM

Students at the rally - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Students at the rally
It wasn't quite as historic as the Women's March in January 2017, but the March for Our Lives gun control rally attracted at least 2,000 people to Montpelier Saturday. The crowd spilled down from the Statehouse steps, all the way back to State Street. Most gathered on the paved surfaces, but many stood in the snow in the chilly sunshine.

Handmade signs were everywhere. Giant banners hung near the front, in the unmistakable style of the Bread and Puppet Theater. Middle school, high school and college students gathered in great numbers, but the crowd ranged in age from toddlers to senior citizens — some of whom were part of the protest movements of the 1960s.

"I grew up during the demonstrations and protests," said Kate Rader of East Montpelier, who was carrying a banner from the League of Women Voters. "At the very least, we’re modeling how to bring about change in a peaceful, loud and bold way." Her fellow banner carrier, Madeline Motta of Stowe, hoped that students' engagement in gun protests would lead to activism at the ballot box in November.

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Vermont House Backs Sweeping Gun Legislation

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 8:58 PM

A 17-round magazine whose sale or transfer would be banned under S.55 - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • A 17-round magazine whose sale or transfer would be banned under S.55
The Vermont House approved sweeping gun legislation Friday evening that would mandate universal background checks, raise the minimum age for firearm purchases to 21, and ban bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

The bill, S.55, was hotly contested in a debate that began Friday at 9:30 a.m. and lasted well into the evening, with one break for a late lunch. A final 85-59 vote on the bill took place just before 7:30 p.m.

“The policies in this bill will keep firearms away from those who intend harm and reduce the lethality of firearms that may be misused,” said Rep. Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington), who spent much of the day responding to questions and criticism from the bill’s opponents.

House Republicans vocally opposed much of the bill, arguing that it would be ineffective, unconstitutional, unduly burdensome on law-abiding Vermonters or some combination of the three.

“We are passing legislation today that does nothing, because it’s going to make a few people feel good,” said Rep. Patrick Brennan (R-Colchester).

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Colorado Group Slams Scott as 'Feinstein & Bloomberg's Gun Control Lovechild'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 2:06 PM

Postcard sent to Vermonters by the National Association for Gun Rights
  • Postcard sent to Vermonters by the National Association for Gun Rights
Updated at 6:06 p.m.

The National Association for Gun Rights mailed postcards to Vermonters this week attacking Republican Gov. Phil Scott for embracing new gun control proposals. The Colorado-based group urged recipients to call the governor and ask him to veto S.55, a gun control bill that passed the Vermont Senate earlier this month.

The postcards feature a doctored photo of a childlike Scott sitting on the shoulders of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who stands beside Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) — both outspoken advocates of new guns laws.

"Is Vermont Governor Phil Scott Feinstein & Bloomberg's gun control lovechild?" it reads.

A lifelong proponent of gun rights, Scott changed course last month and embraced certain gun-control proposals following a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and a foiled plot closer to home, in Fair Haven. But according to his spokeswoman, Rebecca Kelley, the NAGR postcard distorts the governor's views.

"It’s this type of misleading propaganda that’s so destructive to the work being done to better protect our kids and communities, and the governor will continue to exhibit bold leadership that keeps our kids safe without infringing on constitutional rights," she said in a written statement.

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Franklin County Gunmaker Lobbies Against Magazine Capacity Limits

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 12:34 PM

Century Arms makes guns with high-capacity magazines
  • Century Arms makes guns with high-capacity magazines
A Franklin County gun business is making an 11th-hour stand against a proposal that would ban the manufacture and sale of high-capacity firearm magazines. Attorney Brady Toensing, a lobbyist for Century International Arms, said the legislation would kill the company, which employs more than 100 people at its Georgia manufacturing plant.

“This law would put them out of business,” said Toensing, who also serves as vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party.

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