Vermont gun advocates call Waite-Simpson loss a win for gun rights

OUSTED: Gun rights advocates say state Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson lost her House seat in part due to her vocal support for gun control.

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog

An outspoken advocate for gun control lost her seat in the Vermont House of Representatives Tuesday in what Second Amendment groups called a victory for firearms freedom in the Green Mountain State.

Of the various seats Democrats lost in Tuesday’s election, gun rights leaders in Vermont say the defeat of state Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson, D-Essex Junction, was a monumental win for the right to bear arms, and a warning to others who dare to restrict Vermonters’ gun freedom.

“The defeat of Linda Waite-Simpson is a body blow to Gun Sense Vermont,” Eddie Garcia, founder of the Vermont Citizens Defense League, told Vermont Watchdog.

Waite-Simpson, who came in fourth place in the Chittenden 8-2 House race, said in September she would forward legislation requiring background checks for all gun purchases in Vermont. The legislative push for universal background checks is being coordinated by Gun Sense Vermont, the state’s leading gun-control organization.

Waite-Simpson is one of more than 90 state lawmakers who received donations from Gun Sense Vermont during the 2014 campaign. According to a campaign finance disclosure form from Oct. 1, the Essex-Junction Democrat received contributions of $1,400.

Gun Sense Vermont took in $29,042 during the 2014 election cycle and listed expenditures of $25,171, according to a Nov. 3 filing with the Secretary of State’s Office. The group spent $39,000 on lobbyists in July, however, spurring Second Amendment advocates to claim the so-called grassroots organization was funded by Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.

“Linda was the single biggest recipient of cash from their victory fund. … I’d like to think that her opposition to the right of Vermonters to keep and bear arms weighed heavily into her defeat,” Garcia said.

Evan Hughes, vice president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, called Waite-Simpson “the most vocal advocate of gun control in the House of Representatives,” and he said her defeat would affect the gun control debate in the upcoming legislative session.

“Her being voted out of office will have an impact on gun control in the statehouse. She won’t be there as a full-time presence as a legislator to promote gun control like she was before,” Hughes said.

According to Hughes, gun rights advocates could also claim victory in the lieutenant governor’s race, where progressive Dean Corren lost to incumbent Republican Phil Scott by a 2-1 margin.

“I think the clearest win was the lieutenant governor’s race. Corren said in several different forums that he was supporting mandatory background checks. … The election showed that the statewide candidate who favored gun control didn’t get a lot of support on that issue,” Hughes said.

Nevertheless, Hughes warned Gun Sense Vermont aims to replicate Washington State’s Initiative 594, in which 60 percent of voters Tuesday approved mandatory background checks for all gun purchases. In May, Gun Sense Vermont announced it would lobby to make background checks mandatory for all guns purchased in Vermont. Leaders of Gun Sense say four-fifths of likely voters support background checks. Gun Sense hasn’t explained how state background checks could work without the government creating a database of gun purchases, also known as a gun registry.

Opponents of gun control say background check legislation is unnecessary in Vermont.

“We’re constantly one of the lowest crime-rate states in the nation, we’re continuously one of the safest gun-safety states in the country, and the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) numbers show we are not a major source of guns for other states,” Hughes said.

According to Garcia, other incumbent losses — particularly the defeat of state Rep. Michelle Fay, D-St. Johnsbury — further indicate Vermonters don’t want gun control.

In October, Garcia wrote a letter to the editor in which he urged voters to oppose Fay’s campaign. Garcia said he wrote the letter because Fay waffled about charter changes in Burlington that restrict the ownership and carry of guns. To take effect, those changes would have to be approved by the Legislature.

“I’ve been after Michelle Fay ever since she refused to say how she would vote in Montpelier on the Burlington gun control charter changes, which declare themselves exempt from the state statute that prohibits municipalities from regulating the possession of firearms,” Garcia said.

“I’m hoping (Tuesday’s) defeats send a clear message to politicians that serve the overwhelming portion of Vermont: we will not compromise on our gun rights.”

Hughes said state lawmakers thinking of supporting the background check legislation may want to heed the results of Tuesday’s election.

“Vermonters said to their elected officials we want to focus on important issues, not all this social agenda stuff. We want to know what we’re going to do about the economy and a host of serious issues that impact Vermonters. I think that’s what that election is saying more than anything else.”

Contact Bruce Parker at bparker@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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