Students Rally As Vt. Lawmakers Consider Stronger Gun Laws

Mar 24, 2018

On Saturday afternoon, protesters filled the lawn in front of the Vermont Statehouse — where just the night before, House lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a bill that would strengthen gun control laws in the state.

Hundreds of rallies under the name "March for Our Lives" took place across the country on Saturday. Students organized the marches after 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month.

Other rallies were planned Saturday in Vermont, including in Rutland, Middlebury, Manchester, Putney and Bennington. Some Vermonters also traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the national march.

More From VPR — Randolph Union High School Students Head To D.C. For National 'March For Our Lives' [March 23]

In Montpelier, the city estimated a turnout of around 2,500 people.

During the marches students called for lawmakers to enact stronger gun control laws — and in Vermont, that could happen.

More from VPR — Students Demand Action From Montpelier On Gun Control Bills [March 21]

 

Young people hold signs on the Vermont Statehouse steps ahead of speakers beginning at the "March For Our Lives" event in Montpelier Saturday.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

Friday night before the rally, Vermont House lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a bill that would raise the age to buy guns in the state to 21 and require universal background checks for all gun sales.

More From VPR — After Marathon 10-Hour Debate, Vermont House Passes Gun Control Bill [March 23]

The state Senate had already passed a similar bill. And Republican Gov. Phil Scott has indicated he'd support some gun control measures, saying he'd "probably" sign off on universal background checks.

The Vermont House gun control bill, which also bans bump stocks and high-capacity magazines, is expected to come up for final approval on Tuesday.

Speakers line up at the Vermont Statehouse entrance, while a gathered crowd - some holding signs and flags - looks on.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

At the rally, Alisa Dworsky of Montpelier handed out postcards. She said they were "asking people to write to Gov. Scott and express their desire for him to sign gun safety legislation when it comes to his desk."

Dworsky said she thought 1,500 total postcards had been created.

Between the letter-writing campaign and chants of “sign those bills” shouted at the Montpelier rally, the message to Scott from the attendees was clear.

"I want to see people restrict access to assault weapons if it's unnecessary. I want to see more action by our legislators, by our congressmen," said Jack Cronin, of Essex Junction, who attended the Montpelier event.

Cronin said the rally showed people want to change the way guns affect society. He also said the bills in the Vermont Legislature are a good first step. 

"I feel like that's a great start. I think that there can be more done, especially on terms of mental health and limiting access to these firearms for people with mental health problems," Cronin said.

 

A view of the Statehouse lawn, looking out toward State Street, as speakers got under way at the Montpelier "March For Our Lives" event on Saturday.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

Cronin and other students say Saturday's march isn't the end.  They say they'll continue to push lawmakers to enact more gun control laws.

All three members of of Vermont's congressional delegation voiced support on social media for those participating in March For Our Lives events on Saturday.

From WBUR — Photos of Boston's "March For Our Lives" Event [March 24]

In addition, Rep. Peter Welch and Sen. Bernie Sanders were both present at the Montpelier rally. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy was in Washington, D.C., and tweeted about his meetings with Vermonters who had traveled to the nation's capital to join in that march Saturday.

As the rally ended, attendees departed the Statehouse lawn. According to an emailed statement from Sue Allen, Montpelier's assistant city manager, there were an estimated 2,500 people who went to the event Saturday.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR