Being in town government, I naturally follow what happens in other municipalities with interest. Never know what issues they're dealing with that we might encounter at some point, so it's always a good learning experience.
Earlier this month I noticed some people on Facebook express concern about the Town of Hyde Park's recreation field rules. Specifically:
Persons shall not possess, use, or store a weapon of any kind such as firearms, knives, or explosives on the Rec Fields property.
So yes, at their last Selectboard meeting:
Elizabeth Monteith was present to express concern for the banning of firearms on the Recreation Fields property adopted by the Town in 2009 and she is against the ban. Evan Hughes noted that 24 VSA 2295 commonly referred to as the Hunters’ Bill of Rights allows firearms to be on public property while 25 VSA 2291(8) authorizes the control of the discharge of firearms. Deanna Judkins asked if the school could have firearms, and Mr. Hughes explained that 13 VSA 4403 and 4404 prohibits knowingly bringing firearms onto school properties. Elizabeth Monteith stated that she believes everyone should have the constitutional right to have firearms on town property, including the recreation fields
I'm not entirely convinced that towns lack the authority to regulate firearms on public (i.e., town-owned) property. In Hunters, Anglers & Trappers Association of Vermont v. Winooski Valley Park District (2006), SCOV found that § 2295 doesn't prohibit local government entities from banning hunting on public land–towns have the power to regulate their property just as any private landowner.
So while the municipality cannot ban firearm possession in general, which would clearly be contrary to Vermont statute and Article 16 of our constitution, they appear to be well within their rights to do so on rec fields and the like when exercising police power to protect health and safety. This specific issue was raised in the case cited about, but the District changed its policy on carrying in the interim so the question was mooted. That said, I find the ulimate conclusion of the Court's logic to allow such restrictions.
We can debate whether the regulation is wise–I know there are folks who suggest more guns would better contribute to health and safety–but it seems opponents of the rule don't have a constitutional leg to stand on. As SCOV ruled in State of VT v Duranleau (1969):
[T]he language of [Article 16] does not suggest that the right to bear arms is unlimited and undefinable.
Between that and the HAT v Winooski decision, the only reason Hyde Park should change their rule is because they find it unnecessary and/or dangerous and/or has no public support, not because they are prevented by law from managing their own property. Anyway, I'll be tracking what Hyde Park does in response.
Update: I hear from the Selectboard Chair that they will most likely be changing the regulation so it prohibits discharge of weapons, rather than banning possession, on town property.