Dozens rally in Burlington for stricter federal gun laws

Published: Aug. 18, 2019 at 10:40 PM EDT
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Gun control advocates are continuing to push for tougher firearm legislation in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

On Sunday, the organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held rallies across the U.S., including Burlington.

Protesters gathered outside of City Hall to call on Congress to pass harsher and more restrictive gun laws. The group said lawmakers have been inactive and complacent in recent years as gun violence and mass shootings have been on the rise.

They demanded President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell enact federal red flag laws.

Red flag laws allow law enforcement to ask a state court to temporarily confiscate a person’s guns if they’re deemed a threat to themselves or other people.

Vermont gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Holcombe said she supports legislation that aims to get guns out of the hands of people who have plans to hurt themselves or someone else.

“We know that in Vermont, the rate of gun death by suicide is about 4 percent higher than the U.S. average and we know from research that waiting periods save lives,” she said. “I would’ve signed a waiting period bill. The bottom line is Governor Scott did not sign a waiting bill and that waiting bill also included legislation that would’ve closed the Charleston loophole.”

WCAX News reached out to Gov. Phil Scott's office. They say he has done more on gun safety regulation than any other governor in Vermont's history, including background checks, extreme risk protection orders and increasing the minimum age to buy a gun. Governor Scott says he vetoed the 24-hour waiting period bill because there was no proof it would save lives.

Protesters also rebuked the current response from lawmakers that say mental illness, social media and video games are to blame for mass shootings.

“They’ve said that mental health is the root of the problem. That anxiety and depression are the sources of such violence. But I have one question for them: if the internet and mental health are global, why are mass shootings American?” said student activist Sydney Hicks. “In order to start saving American lives, our legislators need to take real action. They need to realize the lives of the Americans they serve are worth more than the millions of dollars poured into their pockets by the NRA.”

Some of the youngest protesters, who are just days away from returning to the classroom, begged Congress to act quickly before school starts. Eleven-year-old Sean Goldsmith lived 20 minutes from Parkland, Florida, when 17 people were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

“I’m just sick of Donald Trump not doing anything about this,” said Sean. “Enough!”

His mother, Amandah, is a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She said it’s terrifying to send Sean to school every day. She told WCAX News she wants stricter gun regulations so that children don’t have to worry about mass shootings while sitting in class. She also said she wants assault rifles off the streets.

“No human should be able to walk around carrying an assault weapon. What it does to the inside of the body, nobody’s talking about. It’s not just a gunshot wound. It’s a bullet,” she said. “It goes in and tears apart the insides of a person’s body. It doesn’t just go straight through and we’re not talking about it. We just need to ban all assault weapons.”

Members of Vermont's Congressional delegation were not in attendance but representatives from their offices spoke on their behalf. Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, was also not there but his chief of staff read a statement from him in support of gun reform. It read: “Reversing decades of devastating federal gun violence policy will require the kind of sustained, multi-faceted, well-resourced public health approach that has defined our response to highway fatalities, the HIV epidemic and other avoidable deaths.”

Moms Demand Action has established a chapter in every state and is a subsidiary of Everytown for Gun Safety.

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