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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Walters: Baruth to Propose Waiting Period for Gun Purchases

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2018 at 7:32 PM

Sen. Phil Baruth - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Phil Baruth
In the wake of a young Vermonter's suicide, Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden) said he will introduce a package of gun safety measures in the 2019 legislative session that includes a mandatory 48-hour waiting period before purchasing a firearm.

Baruth announced his intention on Facebook Wednesday, and he referred to the death of 23-year-old Andrew Black, an Essex resident who died in his home on December 6. Black's mother, Alyssa Hughes Black, told WPTZ-TV that her son bought a gun late that morning and shot himself within a few hours.

In Black's obituary, his parents urged people to "work for legislation that imposes a reasonable waiting period between firearm purchase and possession to provide a cooling off period to guard against impulsive acts of violence."

California, Illinois and Rhode Island are among the states that have established waiting periods in law.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Parkland Students to Bring 'Glimmer of Hope' to Burlington

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 8:56 PM

  • Courtesy photos
Alex Wind prefers not to discuss the details of the shooting that killed 17 people at his high school in Parkland, Fla., in February.

The 17-year-old senior survived the horrific day. On Friday, he will appear with two fellow students in Burlington to promote their book, "Glimmer of Hope," and the March for Our Lives campaign to stop gun violence.

"This is something that is going to be plaguing us our entire lives," Wind said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "But it comes to a point where we have to say, what’s now is now, and we need to be focused on that.”

Last winter, a young gunman sprayed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with bullets. Former student Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of murder.

The 6 p.m. stop on the Glimmer of Hope tour will take place at the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Burlington. Tickets sold out Sunday. Phoenix Books is sponsoring the event.

Wind will appear with two other students from the school: David Hogg and Emma González. They will participate in a moderated question-and-answer session and will sign books.

Some of the student activists have left the school to tour the country and advocate for gun safety measures. They are urging young people to register to vote and use the democratic process for change.

Friday's appearance will be Wind's first on the Glimmer tour. He still attends the school. "It's completely changed the entire atmosphere, the entire landscape," Wind said. "There's not a specific thing to point out. It's just the looming feeling."

Wind did not know Cruz, and didn't want to speculate on his motive — or even think about him. "No one is focused on him," Wind said. "We don’t want to be concerned about him and his face, because he is someone that caused harm and we don’t like to talk about him."

The campaign's goals include voter registration, a federal universal background check for gun purchases, a ban on semiautomatic assault rifles, and more funding to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

It's not a partisan effort, Wind said. "We can all come together and agree on one thing — that this country needs change."

The book's title is not an accident, he added. "The glimmer of hope is the young people, the people who are going to the polls next, the people who are going to the polls now. We don’t like the way things are happening and we're going to change them."

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Montréal Man Gets Four Years for Smuggling Guns Through Library

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 12:55 PM

Haskell Free Library and Opera House in Derby Line - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Haskell Free Library and Opera House in Derby Line
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a Montréal man to more than four years in prison for smuggling 100 firearms through a bathroom in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which straddles the international border in Derby Line.

Alexis Vlachos, a career criminal who pronounced himself a reformed man during a U.S. District Court hearing, will likely be released from prison in the coming weeks after receiving credit for time served and good behavior. He plans to work at his father's restaurant, lawyers said.

Vlachos, 41, led a three-man operation that bought 100 handguns from licensed dealers in Florida. In March 2011, the coconspirators traveled to Vermont and left several firearms in the library, which is famously bisected by the international border.

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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 and 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

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

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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