MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Gov. Phil Scott has proposed new measures to protect schools -- and new gun laws. The debate over gun laws is tricky politics for any politician. The governor says he's not weighing political concerns as he moves to protect Vermonters, but plenty of people will.
Gov. Phil Scott
The debate is rife with politics, but Governor Scott says that isn't a factor for him. "I haven't done any polling. I haven't done anything to figure that out," Scott said.
Gun rights groups are paying attention, though. "I'm hearing all kinds of complaints from our membership, especially since many of them worked so hard to get the governor elected to office," said Evan Hughes with The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. He says universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines are non-starters. "If he supports that I would think he's going to have a serious problem keeping our folks onboard."
The gun-owning governor's sudden policy shift could mean losing votes. He faces re-election in the fall.
"There's a deep dissatisfaction and disappointment and there's also confusion," said Bill Moore with the Vermont Traditions Coalition. "We're fighting for our gun rights -- lawful gun rights."
The coalition believes mental health and keeping guns from dangerous people should be priorities, not new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. "Dancing on caskets and waving bloody shirts, which is what's happened in the last two weeks in this building and statehouses all across the country, is no way to develop public policy," Moore said.
While he's angered some people, Scott is finding support, too. Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, says Scott knows the risks. "It's a gamble -- a political gamble -- but I think he feels very strongly about this and in my conversations with him and his staff he feels an incredible burden," she said. Scheuermann applauds him for moving forward, and she's willing to stand beside him. "What happens politically? He understands there could be consequences, but he believes it's something that's important to put forward."
Rep. Dylan Giambatista, D-Essex Junction, says lawmakers of all political stripes are happy to have a willing partner in protecting Vermonters. "With the governor working with us, and working in a bipartisan fashion, we're more likely to move bills forward and to put those bill over the line," he said.
It's too early to know how the governor's ideas will fare in the Statehouse or what the fallout may be, but the governor and his staff say they're not worrying about that.