Advertisements Ask Burlington Voters To Decide: Constitutional Freedom or Regulation

By Alice Dubenetsky

In preparation for Burlington’s Town Meeting Day on March 4, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs has launched a radio ad campaign to defeat the Burlington City Council’s attempted assault on the Second Amendment, the Vermont Constitution and the Vermont Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights.

Last year the Council, in an emotional reaction to the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, decided to bring a problem that is nonexistent in Vermont to a vote, and to restrict the rights of responsible gun owning citizens.

The City Council passed three resolutions to tighten firearms restriction within Burlington’s city limits; a ban on guns in bars and restaurants; granting police the authority to seize firearms – or any weapon deemed lethal – at the scene of a domestic violence incident; and a mandatory firearms storage ordinance. The measures require a change in the city’s charter, and they also run afoul of the Vermont Constitution and the Vermont Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights (24 VSA, Section 2295) that restricts the authority of municipal and county governments from regulating firearms, ammunition, hunting, fishing and trapping and reads in part;

“Except as otherwise provided by law, no town, city or incorporated village, by ordinance, resolution or other enactment, shall directly regulate hunting, fishing and trapping or the possession, ownership, transportation, transfer, sale, purchase, carrying, licensing or registration of traps, firearms, ammunition or component of firearms or ammunition. “

Recently, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs released a series of radio advertisements with a strong message to voters about the consequences of approving the City Councils measures. One ad cites former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political action group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), an organization devoted to changing existing gun laws and imposing new, restrictive laws in order to achieve their gun control agenda. Burlington Mayor Miro Wienberger is a member of MAIG, along with three other Vermont mayors. The VTFSC ad informs voters that their right to keep and bear arms is under attack by the millionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of Burlington and several city council members.

“The Vermont Constitution states that the people have the right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state. Tell Michael Bloomberg and his minions in Burlington it means what it says and to keep their hands off Vermont tradition and law. Vote no on all three proposed measures on March 4th.”

The most compelling advertisemtn challenges the “safe storage” measure, which requires gun owners to lock up their firearms in their own homes. People who keep guns for self-defense know this measure is patently ridiculous, as a gun that is not instantly accessible is useless in the violent chaos of an invasion or attack. This ad features testimony, given at a previous City Council hearing, from a woman who was attacked in a home invasion. “He assaulted me, came in through my back door and clocked me in the face, shoved me up against my buffet, moved me to another room and started smashing things. If I had not bought myself a Henry 44 rifle with ten round loaded in it, I would not be here today. I grabbed that rifle off the wall, I put it into his chest and walked him into the kitchen. Grabbed my cell phone, put it on speaker-phone and called the police. It took them 52 minutes to get to my house.”

It will be up to Burlington voters to decide whether they will approve measures that conflict with state law, and that purport to solve problems that don’t exist in Vermont – a state with one of the lowest gun crime rates in the nation.

It will also be up to the voters to decide if they are comfortable with a mayor and city councilors who are so easily led by outside influences that are openly opposed to Vermonter’s long tradition of freedom, and who seek to interfere in the local decision making process on such a fundamental level.

And while they are do all of this deciding, the voters might want to cast an eye toward Connecticut, where new, restrictive gun laws have made felons of thousands of gun owners, who in an unprecedented act of civil disobedience, refused to register their guns and may now face prosecution for possessing weapons that the state arbitrarily decreed “illegal”.