This past week, quietly and without fanfare, Vermont took one baby step forward toward embracing reality.
The reality I refer to recognizes the need for some minimal effort at gun control.
This is the twenty-first century and we are living in an alienated America where children in a quiet Connecticut kindergarten can fall victim to mass murder on a whim; and where we hear every week, if not every day, of new acts of senseless gun violence even in unexpected places.
The argument that Vermont doesn’t have a gun problem and so does not need to even consider gun control makes about as much sense as does refusing to carry car insurance because you’ve never had an accident, or declining homeowner’s insurance because your house has never burned down.
If Vermont has so far escaped an outbreak of gun violence on national media scale, it is only by virtue of a small population and a whole lot of luck. It is not because of a total lack of regulation, and anyone who argues that it is is deluding him/herself.
While S.31, a bill that would have imposed criminal background checks on all gun sales, failed to pass, a much more modest effort, S.141, received a generally favorable reception by the Senate.
S.141 simply aligns state regulations to the existing federal mandate against felons convicted of violent crime possessing firearms, and requires background checks for persons with “adjudicated” mental illness.
To anyone living in the other 49 states where the federal mandate has already been endorsed, or almost anywhere else in the civilized world, this does not seem like much of a stretch; but, for Vermont, it is groundbreaking…and not without the hyperbolic accusations from the peanut gallery that we have come to expect in the wake of any discussion of gun use in Vermont.
As if unveiling a “smoking gun” (‘scuse me), opponents of the bill drew a line from Gun Sense Vermont to Michael Bloomberg’s national campaign for gun control.
In response to the accusations of “outside influences,” proponents of the bill had only to point to the long-time campaign by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to prevent any form of gun legislation from passing in Vermont.
I don’t personally see unregulated gun ownership as the privilege that defines Vermont. In fact, I find that very idea a little depressing, given that there are so many values more deserving of our state identity. Be that as it may, I recognize and respect the fact that many others disagree with me.
The ability to entertain that conversation with tolerance and an open mind is much more my idea of what makes Vermont the place I love and call my own.