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Vermont Senator Seeks To Ban Semi-Automatic Weapons From Public Gathering Places

Sen. Philip Baruth's bill would strip citizens of the right to carry semi-automatic guns in many public spaces.

Montpelier, VT – Vermont lawmakers will soon consider a bill aimed at banning law-abiding citizens from carrying semi-automatic weapons in multiple areas open to the public.

On Tuesday, Senator Philip Baruth declared that he will introduce legislation that would strip citizens of the right to carry semi-automatic weapons in places including childcare facilities, theaters, places of worship, airports, restaurants, stores, parks, and auditoriums, the VT Digger reported.

Baruth, a Democrat, referred to all semi-automatic firearms as “assault weapons.”

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“Everybody’s sort of conditioned to accept the fact that in public, people are going to carry weapons that are designed to kill large numbers of human beings,” he told the VT Digger. “I don’t think we’ve reached a consensus on banning assault weapons, but I do think we’ve reached a consensus that we don’t want them in the public square.”

Guns that are not semi-automatic would not be a part of the ban, and citizens would still be allowed to carry semi-automatic weapons on public streets and downtown areas, the VT Digger reported.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott said he will listen to debate about Baruth’s proposal, but that he won’t support more restrictions because he believes there have been enough recent gun law changes, according to WCAX.

“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,” Scott said. “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.”

Baruth remained undeterred, and noted that the governor has changed his mind before.

“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,” the senator told WCAX. “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.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Sears said he has not taken a position with regards to the bill, but that it seems to be rooted in logic, the VT Digger reported.

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“It’s hard to argue why you need to carry an assault weapon at a football game,” the Democrat said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe agreed, even though he has yet to read the bill.

“I think generally speaking, people would acknowledge that the places you just described are not ones that probably are appropriate for people to bring assault weapons to,” Ashe told the VT Digger.

But Senator John Rodgers, who is also a Democrat, said that he will not support the proposed legislation.

“Taking rights away from law-biding citizens is not going to help. Criminals are going to carry them because they don’t care about the law,” Rodgers argued. “They want to stop people from being able to carry guns for self-protection, and I can’t vote for that.”

Scott enacted a slew of new gun measures in 2018, which included a ban on bump stocks, limited the capacity of magazines, raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, and expanded background checks for private gun sales, the VT Digger reported.

His spokesperson, Rebecca Kelley, said that the governor has not yet decided his position on Baruth’s various additional gun-related proposals.

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“I’d reiterate that the Governor has also said he believes we need to focus on ensuring the sweeping gun safety reforms we passed last year are working well and as intended, and on addressing the root causes of violence and suicide,” Kelley told the VT Digger.

Holly Matkin - December Tue, 2019

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