Sportmen's Group Critizes Burlington Mayor
LP members Evan Hughes and Ed Cutler are making news and standing up for Vermonters’ right to bear arms….
Sportsmen’s group criticizes Burlington mayor
Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2006
By John Briggs
Free Press Staff Writer
Guns are the province of the state Legislature, not of cities or mayors, The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs said in a strongly worded statement this weekend.
The group, representing the National Rifle Association in Vermont, is the umbrella organization for nearly 50 hunting and fishing and firearms clubs and 13,000 to 14,000 individual members across the state. It was responding to Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss’ announcement last week that he wants to begin a “discussion” in Burlington about handguns and their easy availability.
Kiss emphasized again Tuesday that he was not raising the broad subject of gun control. “From the perspective of being mayor,” he said, “I haven’t looked at public safety in terms of whether there are initiatives we would like to take. At least an element of that is that we’ve had two recent shootings in which handguns were involved.”
He said he wanted such a discussion to begin in groups already discussing public safety, and “without polarization.”
Evan Hughes, a federation’s vice president and the group’s legislative liaison, wrote a two-page response to Kiss’s remarks of last week. It was distributed to officers of the organization and presidents of member-clubs. Hughes said it will reach all of the federation’s members in the June newsletter.
“The federation takes any discussion on firearms by a government entity as a serious matter,” the group’s statement said. “We hold that the legislature has done well in providing good law and sound public policy. Matters regarding the firearm regulatory process,” the statement concluded, “should continue to be controlled exclusively by the Vermont Legislature.”
State law currently gives municipalities power to limit gun use within city boundaries but no power to regulate gun possession.
“I do appreciate the deliberative process,” Kiss said Tuesday. He said new legislation might reach the Legislature as a charter change for Burlington or in legislation introduced by Burlington legislators. But the discussion would begin in Burlington, in “a public process,” he said, “and it wouldn’t exclude people.”
Hughes said the power of the federation to influence legislation is reflected in new legislation that limits lawsuits against firing ranges. Gov. Jim Douglas signed the law May 22 and described it as “a reminder of how much we value the Second Amendment of our nation’s Constitution and what we’re willing to do to protect these important rights.
The vote tally for the bill, Hughes said, “ought to give you some indication of the position of the Legislature on issues of importance to sportsmen.” He said the federation was the “driving force” for the legislation.
The Senate vote was 28-0 in favor, and the House supported it 126-7.
Hughes said the federation will monitor the handgun discussion in Burlington, should such a discussion begin.
“We don’t do name-calling,” he said. “We work. We’ll do like we do with everything: we watch it closely, we file position papers and we testify in the Legislature. We’re going to be involved in anything in that Legislature involving the rights of shooters.”
Ed Cutler, the president of the 3,000-member Gun Owners of Vermont, based in Westminster, said after Kiss’ comment last week that his group would mount legal challenges to any ordinance Burlington might pass limiting gun-owners rights, “and we’d win,” he said.
Kiss repeated Tuesday that handgun involvement in crime is a “timely” question. “We could see where that went,” he said, “without prejudging the process. Understanding that it’s deliberative. I don’t want to be afraid of bringing up issues that are sensitive.”
Contact John Briggs at 660-1863 or [email protected]