Published January 28, 2013
The battle over the right to bear arms is flaring in Vermont, where a local gun range has moved to prohibit the Burlington Police Department from training at its facilities after the City Council voted to advance a measure banning semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines.
The leadership of the Lamoille Valley Fish and Game Club explained that it's "difficult" for the club to support the city -- even its officers -- given the actions of the council.
"We have members in Burlington as well as members of our club that are going to be passing through Burlington and this would directly affect them and we felt that a prejudicial vote like that was going to be non-supportive of our club and being non-supportive of our club makes it very difficult to support Burlington City," said Bob Boivin, chairman of the Lamoille Valley Fish and Game Club.
"It is a constitutional issue. I mean, it's not just a Second Amendment constitutional issue; but it's also a constitutional issue for Vermont. We have laws that have the state governing our gun controls in this area and they're looking to supersede those," he said.
The group's ban will affect how and when officers train in the state, where such facilities are limited.
In response, the Burlington Police Department released a statement saying: "It is unfortunate that this important and much-needed community dialogue regarding gun control currently under way in the City of Burlington and across the nation has resulted in this action."
The city government is defending the measure.
"In the absence of federal legislation or state law we feel it has come upon us as a city to take the measures we feel are necessary to protect our citizens," Burlington City Councilman Norman Blais said.
"Ultimately, I don't think that the best way to assert control over guns is at the local level," conceded Joan Shannon, president of the Burlington City Council. "But here in Burlington, I think we felt the need to act because we didn't see action coming from either the state level or the federal level."
Boivin argues city-by-city gun rules would create a multitude of challenges.
"If you're going to a shoot, say in one end of Vermont to the other, you have to check the laws for every town in between, and you will pass through a half a dozen different towns, and that makes it almost impossible for someone to stay as a legal gun owner, and that's what we're concerned about," he said.
Shannon said the council's action are only a first step toward better protecting the people of the city, "but this at least gets the discussion started and often times we have found in Burlington that we lead the way and others will follow, and I think that that's the intention here."
The Burlington City Council's proposal to ban certain assault weapons is far from being implemented. City voters would get a say in 2014. Then the measure would require approval by the Vermont legislature. Finally, if it does become law, it's likely to face a constitutional challenge from gun-rights advocates.