Vigil aims to curb gun death rates in Vermont

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Members of the University of Vermont community gathered for a vigil Thursday to remember the lives of those lost to gun violence.

Almost seven years ago, a shooter opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and seven adults.

Vermont Youth for GunSense organized the vigil to remember those lost to gun violence across the country. The event comes just before the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that killed 20 children and seven adults.

We were asked not to publicize this event before 6 p.m. because of the event's sensitive nature.

This vigil also comes weeks ahead of the legislative session where guns will once again be a topic of discussion.

Chittenden County Democratic Sen. Phil Baruth plans to introduce legislation to ban people from carrying semi-automatic weapons in places like parks, churches, stores and political demonstrations.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott says he won't support the new laws but he's open to hearing the debate in the Legislature.

"I think there's an opportunity to take the laws that we passed and make them better and make sure we're putting them into practice and making sure we're educating people on how to use, particularly, the red flag laws. So, I think there's a lot of opportunity to do better with what we have right now other than stepping out and proposing new legislation," Scott said.

But Baruth hopes Scott changes his mind.

"Phil Scott originally had said he would pass no gun legislation, he said many times we don't need gun laws until events proved otherwise. We nearly lost a school in Fair Haven. Nationally, we've had mass shootings and Phil Scott, to his credit, changed his mind. I'd hope he'd be the same way with this bill," said Baruth.

Last year, the governor signed into law sweeping gun reforms, such as a red flag law which lets police seize guns from people deemed to be a danger. The laws also raise the age to buy a gun to 21, expand background checks and limit the capacity of magazines.

But at the vigil, organizers and attendees have their sights on working to curb gun death rates here in Vermont. GunSense Vermont says the state has the highest rate of gun deaths in New England, most of them suicides.