Gun Control Advocates Face Long Odds In Montpelier

Mar 5, 2014

The gun-control group that won big in Burlington on Tuesday is promising to continue its advocacy in the Legislature. But the early legislative prognosis for three proposed charter changes is looking grim.

The voters of Burlington approved three charter changes Tuesday that would institute new restrictions on firearm owners in the state’s largest city. But the changes will need sign-off from the Legislature before they can go into effect. And House Speaker Shap Smith on Wednesday said chances for that happening aren’t too promising.

Smith said allowing Burlington to move forward with its new ordinances isn’t as easy as approving the charter changes. He said the proposals run contrary to existing language in Vermont’s statute. And he said that if lawmakers are going to approve the changes, then they’ll also need to amend what’s known as the Sportmen’s Bill of Rights.

Passed in 1988, the legislation stipulates certain protections for gun owners in Vermont. With only about two months left in the legislative session, Smith said he’s not sure the House will be able to have the kind of debate it would need in order to move forward with changes on such an emotionally charged issue.

“You know, I think that the tension between gun safety and traditional views about hunting really is one that needs more conversation before we can move forward with the Burlington ordinances,” Smith said.

He added that "it’s a little late in the session” to be taking up such a significant issue, and that “trying to resolve the tension” between current law and the Burlington ordinances “is possibly something that we could not do this year.”