Burlington gun control opponents take fight to Montpelier


By Jon Street | Vermont Watchdog

BATTLE FOR BURLINGTON: Gun control opponents take their fight to Montpelier

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Mayor Miro Weinberger is applauding sweeping new gun control ordinances he says represent an important step forward for “common sense” public safety reforms in Burlington.

Burlington voters approved the measures Tuesday, but already, gun control opponents are vowing to take the fight to Montpelier.

State law prohibits towns or cities from regulating guns, and any change in Burlington’s city charter must be approved by the Vermont Legislature.

Ed Cutler, president and legislative director for Gun Owners of Vermont, said he expects the gun control ordinances to die there. If not, his organization stands ready to take the case to the Vermont Secretary of State or State Attorney General.

“Most legislators are really proud of the Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights,” Cutler said. ”What this is doing is asking for an exception from state law. I don’t think (the Legislature) will give it to (the city of Burlington).”

The National Rifle Association, like Gun Owners of Vermont, also is preparing for a battle at the Statehouse.

“This clearly violates the Vermont Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights and the state’s firearms preemption law,” Darin Goens, the NRA Institute for Legislative Affairs liaison, told Vermont Watchdog. “(The) NRA will actively work to defeat these proposals in Montpelier … Vermont’s many gun owners should not be bullied by anti-gun city councilors in Burlington.”

The first of the ordinances, passed by a vote of 5,579-2,066, would allow police to seize firearms for five days from residents who are involved in domestic disputes. The second, passed 5,194-2,517, would make it illegal to carry a firearm inside a liquor establishment. The third, requiring “safe storage” of firearms inside residents’ own homes, passed 4,351-2,971.

Burlington City Councilor Norm Blais first proposed the sweeping measures after the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left 26 people dead, 20 of whom were children.

Vermont Watchdog reported Dec. 12 that Burlington had been eyeing a loophole that would allow it to pass gun ordinances in direct conflict with state law. That loophole, “except as otherwise provided by law,” precedes the clause in the Vermont Constitution, which prohibits the regulation of firearms, also known as the Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights.

“To those people who say we don’t need this legislation in Burlington because nothing like this has ever happened here before, well the people of Newtown, Conn., could have said that before December (14),” Blais said during a Jan. 2013 City Council meeting.

Contact Jon Street at jstreet@watchdog.org and find him on Twitter @JonStreet.

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