By Alice Dubenetsky
On Tuesday, Burlington voters approved by large margins three resolutions restricting the rights of gun owners within city limits. The resolutions require legislative approval for a charter change in order to take effect, and they are in direct conflict with the United States Constitution, the Vermont Constitution and the Vermont Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights. The latter foresaw such an over-reach by Vermont municipalities and guarantees a broad spectrum of rights to Vermont’s sporting community. It restricts the authority of municipal and county governments from regulating firearms, ammunition, hunting, fishing, and trapping. The law is quite comprehensive in it’s protection of Vermont gun ownership and rights, reading: “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.“
The Vermont Constitution which read: “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State – and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power.”
The new laws in question, if approved and enacted, will require residents to “safely store” all guns, will allow the police to seize weapons from people suspected of domestic violence, and ban firearms from any city establishment with a liquor license.
The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is resolved to defend the rights of Vermont gun owners at the legislative level, having conceded a loss in Burlington.
“The results are in and all three gun control ballot issues passed.
Now the BTV phase of this battle is over,” says a posting on VFSC’s website. “BTV city hall knows it has been in a fight. It will be a whole different game in the state house. The legislators will be able to see what was is actually in the proposed gun control ordinances and not just the limited language listed on the ballot.
These proposed gun control ordinances are an attack on our vital Vermont Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights. This is law we must defend.
The three gun control ordinances are not based on sound public policy, and are certainly in contempt of the state and federal constitution. These ballot issues are the work of politicians playing political shenanigans and nothing more.”
The Vermont legislature is certainly in for a battle if they choose to take on the state’s sportsmen and gun owners. Vermont’s long tradition of lightly restricted gun ownership and personal responsibility is not something Vermonters will relinquish easily, if at all.
Vermont legislators might want to look at the situation currently brewing in Connecticut. There, in reaction to the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, opportunistic anti-gun activists rammed through restrictive gun laws with little public input or support. The new Connecticut law redefines the definition of “assault weapon”, banning 100 types of automatic weapons. While it allows, “grandfathering” for people who already own AR-15’s and similar weapons, it requires that those weapons be registered with the state with a permit that requires the owners to provide personal information. Connecticut also banned magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
Predictably, the state is being sued by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League for violations of the 2nd Amendment.
What was not so predictable was that tens of thousands of gun owners have not complied with the registration requirements and are refusing to register their guns or provide their personal information to the state. Their recalcitrance is an example of a massive act of civil disobedience and defiance.
In an astonishingly witless comment to the Hartford Courant, CT Republican Senator Tony Guglielmo, said, “I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register. If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don’t follow them, then you have a real problem.” The senator made his comments after being informed by a gun owner that he and his fellow gun owners would refuse to submit to the laws requirements. Certainly Mr. Guglielmo should know that if you pass laws that are unconstitutional and draconian, eventually people will rebel. Remember King George?
Because the December 31st deadline for registration has passed and because many gun owners have likewise passed on registering their firearms, thousands of otherwise law-a biding Connecticut citizens have been rendered felons under the current law.
The state is in a bit of a corner regarding this unanticipated civil disobedience, because although they can track many of the guns through background check information, the decision to do so, and to force registration or confiscation, would confirm what gun rights supporters have asserted all along – that along with registration comes confiscation and a complete abrogation of their 2nd Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. To counter this, the state is contemplating extending the deadline, but Connecticut’s undersecretary of Policy and Management sees a big problem looming. He said the state will not yet pursue unregistered gun owners, but he also acknowledged that even sending a reminder notice could cause a negative reaction from gun owners. He proposes an “outreach campaign”.
Vermont’s citizens will watch what happens next in Montpelier regarding Burlington’s attempted assault on the 2nd Amendment. This state has a long tradition of hunting and shooting rights, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of Vermont’s citizens view Burlington’s disregard for constitutional rights. Hopefully, Burlington is an isolated island of liberalism more concerned with political correctness and emotion-driven public policy than they are with constitutionality. Will a more rational majority of the state put the brakes on such dangerous incursions into individual liberty?
As the situation in Connecticut illustrates, if all else fails, there’s always recourse in civil disobedience. Citizens pushed to the edge can still stand up and demand their lawmakers listen to the people and obey the Constitution.