Guns are barred within the state capitol, but Friday, Capitol Police Chief Les Dimick had a range of weapons on hand. Vermont legislators requested the display and informal question and answer opportunity so they could better understand firearms as they grapple with proposed new restrictions.
"There will be people to the right who will tell us that we've gone too far, and people to the left who will want us to go farther," said Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson, D-Essex.
Earlier in the day, those sponsoring and supporting gun law changes held a press conference. Waite-Simpson proposes:
limiting magazines to 10 rounds
requiring background checks for all gun sales
education for those who conceal-carry
a state-level ban matching the federal restriction on convicts carrying weapons
requiring mental health reports be sent to the federal background check system
repealing a state ban on silencers
A separate proposal also calls for a seized-weapon storage facility.
Fellow Democrat George Till says he'll bring forward legislation calling for a 48-hour waiting period before allowing a purchase at a gun store. He says two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides and often the result of impulse decisions.
"Even a brief delay can be usually helpful to let somebody reconsider," said Till, D-Jericho.
Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark is the president of the state's Sheriffs' Association. He says they support some of the proposed measures, but won't back magazine size limits or required conceal carry courses.
"The House bill has some good provisions which I am personally not opposed to, it has some provisions I am opposed to," said Dave Stahler of Lyndon Center.
Stahler is a gun owner who says his feelings mirror law enforcement's. He worries about new legislation, but is encouraged by legislators' willingness to discuss strengths and weaknesses of proposals.
"Bills, as introduced, never get through the process without some degree of change," Waite-Simpson said.
Waite-Simpson's bill has about a dozen sponsors, but she's asking for constructive criticism from legislators and residents, from the left and the right, in an effort to garner as much consensus as possible.
Waite-Simpson says correspondence from her own constituents has been positive, but she's been flooded by calls from opponents after the NRA sent out a release. Senate Majority leader Phil Baruth sponsored legislation earlier this year that called for an assault weapons ban but pulled it for lack of support.
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