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Gun rights clash with safety concerns in Rutland - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Gun rights clash with safety concerns in Rutland

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RUTLAND, Vt. -

Milton resident Joshua Severance says he was visiting his father in Rutland City and it seemed like a typical Monday. The 26-year-old was walking down Summer Street to get to his father's apartment.

"There was a cruiser sitting there parked, and it saw me. I had my firearm on my side, had my shirt off because I was hot, minding my own business just walking along, cops saw me," Severance said.

Severance says the police then stopped him and began asking him questions about the 9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun clipped to his belt. He says he was expecting questions about the gun he legally owns, but wasn't expecting to be handcuffed and detained.

While the police ran background checks, the National Guard veteran says he felt disappointed at the way he was being treated.

"I can see pulling somebody over and asking them to look at the firearm or check the serial number to see if it comes back stolen, but putting somebody in handcuffs and throwing them in a cruiser and treating them like a criminal from square one-- I don't agree with," Severance said.

However, after several recent shootings on Summer Street, city police say they remain hypervigilant, with extra patrols.

"In this particular neighborhood it is not commonplace to have people walking down the street with firearms, either rifles, shotguns or handguns. It was suspicious; it was out of the ordinary," Rutland City Police Sgt. John Sly said.

Sly says Severance was not breaking the law, and in Vermont, gun owners can legally carry a firearm, concealed or not. But given the recent shootings, Sly says the community safety is a priority. Some neighbors agree.

"Being a father of a little one, I am glad to see they are here and glad that they are showing their presence," said Jeffrey Selleck, who lives on Summer Street.

However, after witnessing the event, Selleck also says he feels they may have jumped the gun a little early. But it all seems circumstantial.

"If they hadn't had the shooting here recently, maybe it would have been a different situation with him," Selleck said.

But Severance says he feels he was wrongly targeted.

"The officer asked me why I was carrying it and I said it was because I could. It was my right to," Severance said. "And he said, 'Do you know there was a shooting here the other night?' To which I said, 'No, I didn't-- but what's that have to do with me?'"

Severance has a meeting Wednesday evening with Rutland City Police Chief James Baker.

Police say these types of stops are not out of the ordinary and are routinely conducted. They remain firm that given the circumstances, it was appropriate protocol.

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