At Datillio's Guns and Tackle in South Burlington business is booming. Owner Jim Dattilio says in the last four days he's sold around 70 guns; typically he sells 20.
Dattilio says the top sellers right now are semi-automatic rifles. He can't keep them in stock. Ammo is also flying off the shelves. Police say Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza used a semi-automatic rifle.
"People are fearful they will not be able to get one down the road," Dattilio said.
Customers avoided us, but Dattilio says they are worried about a possible ban on semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. Gun control is being talked about following the school shooting tragedy. The last federal assault weapons ban passed in 1994, but expired 10 years later. Efforts to re-enact the ban have stalled since 2004.
"You need to be able to simply draw a line in the sand; not here, not now, not ever," Peter Smith said.
Republican Peter Smith drew that line in the 1980s when he was Vermont's congressman and voted to ban assault weapons. A vote that angered the National Rifle Association. The group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat Smith, a large amount of money at the time. Smith lost to his opponent Bernie Sanders, an abrupt ending to his political career. Smith says the NRA was and is a powerful enemy, but even so he wants Vermont's congressional delegation to stand up to the NRA.
Peter Smith: Happily as I relive it, it feels just as right as 22 years ago when I did it.
Gina Bullard: So you don't have any regrets?
Peter Smith: Hell no.
But Vermont's congressional delegation has remained relatively quiet on gun control. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch would not be interviewed about gun laws Tuesday. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is in Italy on vacation. All issued general statements calling for a national conversation. Sen. Bernie Sanders did say he would support the assault weapons ban, but says the nation needs more than that.
"If you pass a ban on assault weapons tomorrow, I have my doubts about what kind of profound impact it would have. It is not one piece of legislation; we need a comprehensive approach," said Sanders, I-Vermont.
"It's very tough to bring the issue up because law abiding folks are the ones that vote," Vince Illuzzi said.
Illuzzi served in the Vermont Senate for decades and is the prosecutor for Essex County. He says guns are personal in Vermont, with a strong tradition of hunting and target shooting. And that makes it hard for politicians to tackle gun control.
"Those who lawfully use firearms don't feel like they should be penalized for the actions of others," Illuzzi said.
We now have word that Congressman Welch is also open to the idea of a ban. He agreed to speak with us Wednesday.
Tuesday, Dick's Sporting Goods announced it will pull its entire stock of modern sporting rifles from all its locations across the country in the wake of the Connecticut shooting tragedy. Wal-Mart has also stopped selling the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, one of the weapons found on shooter Adam Lanza.
Dattilio's Gun Shop told me that if a ban does go into effect, it will just drive all these weapons underground. There will be a black market for semi-automatic rifles and people will still find a way to get their hands on them.
Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), On The Tragedy In Connecticut:
December 14, 2012
"Few events in my lifetime have emotionally roiled the Nation - all of us - as deeply as have the senseless killings last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. Wrenching images and personal stories that spilled out from that tragedy have forever been imprinted on our collective memories.
"In my family, and I know in families from coast to coast, parents called their children. Brothers called sisters. Neighbors reached out to neighbors. Over the weekend and again today, in discussions across church pews, on the sidewalk, in the grocery line, at the worksite and in our offices, we all have struggled for words to describe our feelings of shock and immeasurable sadness.
"Last night President Obama gave voice - our voice - to let these stricken families know how deeply we want to help relieve their suffering, as we share, through the small ways we can, in their grief.
"Many questions about this unspeakable tragedy have yet to be answered.
"As the President has pointed out, it is unlikely that any single step, or package of steps, can erase the chance of such a tragedy happening again. We know that sometimes things happen that are beyond understanding. We also know that situations vary widely from state to state and from community to community. But we must take on the responsibility of searching for answers.
"Congress can and should be part of this national discussion and search for answers. The Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing early in the next congressional session to help in the search for understanding and answers. I expect that other committees will also take part in this national discussion.
"If there are practical, sensible, workable answers to prevent such unspeakable tragedy, we should make the effort to find them."
Sen. Bernie Sanders' Statement on Tragedy in Connecticut
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement today:
"Newtown, Conn., and our entire country have experienced an unspeakable and unimaginable tragedy. As President Obama has stated we, as a nation, must do everything we can to put an end to the epidemic of mass killings that we have seen in recent years.
"No knowledgeable person believes that there is one easy, 15-second-soundbite answer to this crisis. We need a comprehensive approach in which a number of issues must be seriously addressed. Among those issues are:
"First, we have to tone down the incredibly high level of violence which permeates our media culture and which desensitizes children and others to the killing of human beings.
"Second, we must greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities so that individuals and families in need of psychological help can find that help when they need it. Incredibly, there are major proposals before Congress right now which would substantially cut back on the availability of that help - making a bad situation much worse.
"Third, while well over 99 percent of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who use their weapons legally and responsibly, there are clearly some who do not. In that regard, we must make certain that highly destructive weapons do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them."
Rep. Peter Welch issued the following statement on the shooting in Newton, Conn.:
December 18, 2012
"The horrific violence in Newtown is a transformational moment in the national conversation on gun violence. There should be no conflict between protecting innocent children from slaughter and preserving the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. As the Newtown community begins the heartbreaking process of burying the victims of this horrific massacre, America must begin its own process of reaching an overdue consensus on practical steps we must now take to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.
"We must find a better way to prevent mentally unstable individuals from obtaining a gun. We must ensure that federal agencies, as well as state and local law enforcement authorities, are sharing information that will improve the effectiveness of federal background checks. We must, even in an era fiscal restraint, improve mental health services at the local level. We must find ways to check the gruesome violence on display every day to our children through television, movies and video games. And we must honestly address the real world impact of assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips that are inflicting carnage on innocent people.
"It is essential that every American come to the table to participate in this discussion, including parents, teachers, law enforcement authorities, mental health advocates, the entertainment industry, and the National Rifle Association."
Gov. Peter Shumlin issued the following statement following the shooting in Newtown, Conn.:
December 14, 2012
"I was shocked and sickened to hear about this morning's tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. My office has spoken with Vermont State Police and the Vermont Principals Association, who report that principals and staff are especially vigilant in the aftermath of this morning's tragedy. Parents and students should know that nearly all Vermont schools have emergency plans and security in place. Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca has also asked all schools to review their safety plans to ensure they are current. As a parent, I am heartbroken by this tragedy, and my heart and thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims in Connecticut."