The Informational Forum on Anticipated Changes to VT Gun Legislation which was held in Pawlet on Wednesday, October 8, indicated that any changes to Vermont Gun Laws will not be well received. Although the legislature has not defined the specifics for proposed changes, a part of the preliminary discussion is universal background checks for all firearm transfers; the consensus of the attendees was that federal law covers initial gun transfers and no change is needed.
Moderator, Senator Kevin Mullin, asked a panel of experts, what they thought the proposed changes would be and why change is needed. Panel members were Evan Hughes, Vice President & Registered Lobbyist for Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Lars Jacob, Director of the Covey & Nye Shooting School, Senator Peg Flory, Esquire, who chairs the Senate Committee on Institutions including oversight of VT Department of Corrections, Brian Kukon, Chief Master Firearms Instructor with an extensive background in Defensive Concealed Carry and Law for Use of Force, Chief William Humphries of Fair Haven Police Department and High Bailiff of Rutland County, and Representative Bob Helm of Fair Haven. After a brief statement from each panel member, the forum was opened to the audience for questions.
The audience was comprised of approximately 150 attendees who drove from all corners of the state to participate. From the Northeast Kingdom to Westminster, from St. Albans, Essex, and Benson to Bennington, from Barre, Mendon, and Rutland City to our local towns, gun owners came to add their voices to the discussion.
Notables in the audience included Senator Joseph Benning of Caledonia County, Constable David Ricard of Pawlet, Fire Chief Dale Decker of Pawlet, Rutland County State's Attorney Marc Brierre, Patricia McCoy, Poultney Town Clerk, and Wendy Wilton, Rutland City Treasurer.
The event was open to the general public; however, the focus was Vermonters' rights under Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution and whether our present gun laws are working. In summary, the audience felt that our present laws and rights under those laws make us the safest state in the nation and we do not need changes; federal law requires background checks for initial purchase; compliance would not be universal since felons would not comply and medical records for persons with mental illness and legal drug use cannot be accessed under present Vermont law so these persons would not need to comply.
Prior to adjourning the forum for an informal social, those running for elected offices in Vermont were encouraged to introduce themselves and state their stand on the "gun" issue. In attendance were (1) candidate for governor, (4) senate candidates, (1) candidate for State's Attorney, and (5) candidates running for VT House.
All candidates were in favor of no change to Vermont law, except for (1) house candidate in favor of universal background checks and (1) house candidate who feels more gun laws are needed.
I would like to thank the Pawlet Fire Department for the use of the Fire House; the Modern Woodmen of America for use of their amplifier and microphone; the moderator and panelists for their participation and candor; the sponsors of our advertising on Lakes Region Radio, GNAT-TV for use of their equipment; our crew of silent volunteers who put out posters and flyers, set up and broke down seating and those who baked and served great desserts and all those who attended to question, listen and learn.
Dolores Luebke, Organizer
West Pawlet, Vermont