Danby school-children opened the legislature Tuesday with home-spun songs of unity. But lawmakers find themselves facing a second amendment divide as they try to protect Vermont students from gun violence.
"I'm hopeful we'll be able to get something done this session," said Sen. Majority Leader Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden). Sen. Baruth proposes banning manufacture, possession and sale of assault weapons, as well as clips with a capacity higher than five. Under the bill, those who currently own such a weapon would be exempted. Baruth said he had already planned to introduce the bill this session when the shootings in Newtown gave the plan new urgency. "I do believe that's part of the solution -- obviously not all of the solution," he said.
"I'm not sure how far we can go this year. I think it's an area we have to tread very softly," said Rep. Pat Brennan (R-Chittenden).
Rep. Brennan said he believes mental health reform has greater potential to prevent another tragedy than a ban, and that more discussion is needed before action is taken.
On Monday four of Vermont's mayors called for federal legislation renewing federal bans on semi-automatic weapons in place during the Clinton years. Tuesday, more joined in as they asked legislators to bring state law into-sync with federal law by banning convicts from carrying weapons. "We need another tool in the tool box at the local and state level," said Rutland Mayor Chris Louras.
Beyond that, the mayors differ in opinion, and its unclear if Sen. Baruth's proposal will reach the floor. Governor Peter Shumlin has said the issue would be best handled at the federal level.
Gun store operators Channel 3 spoke with said they've seen a massive rush on semi-automatic assault weapons over the last month. Most said they're sold out, and even without a ban, likely won't be able to re-stock for about a year.
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