( – promoted by Sue Prent)
This is in response to Enosburg/Bakersfield Rep. Larry Fiske’s letter in the 4/23/15 St. Albans Messenger, explaining his vote on S.141, a bill that proposes to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders, spousal abusers, or those who are suicidal or are a danger to themselves and others.
S.141 passed the VT House by a vote of 80 – 62, following much testimony and impassioned discourse. I salute all the concerned citizens, ( the “green shirts” and the “orange shirts” both ), who showed up at the State House to engage in civil debate and to let their representatives know their views. This was democracy in action. I especially applaud the people who had the courage to bring up and work for this bill, in a state where even the most established politician avoids confronting the sensitive issue of anything to do with guns.
I thank Rep.Fiske for making the effort to tell us the reasons behind his “no” vote, but I take real issue with some of his statements. I’m also very puzzled by the “vote explanation” he gave after the vote in the State House.
Firstly, Rep. Fiske refers to our Constitutional 2nd Amendment securing our right to bear arms, as if this bill negates that. I’m sure he heard the other side, which was that it is the responsibility of legislators to protect the most vulnerable Vermonters from those who would abuse our 2nd Amendment. This was not a vote on the right for citizens to bear arms.
Next he mentions the emotions brought forward by some members “which were moving as well as thought-provoking.” Rep. Sam Young (D-Glover) gave poignant testimony about his suicidal brother who killed himself with a gun he easily purchased in another town because there was no database like S.141 would establish.
According to the Vermont Digger, Representative Young said, “If he was in that database, nobody would have sold him that gun” (). Rep. Till ( D-Jericho) spoke of Vermont’s firearm death rate being double the rate in New York and almost 3 times the rate in Massachusetts because of our high number of gun deaths by suicide, averaging 60 Vermonters per year, and said this bill “is not enough…. but it is a step “on the path to reducing this public health scourge”.
Finally, Rep.Fiske talks about those who struggle with PTSD, especially veterans, and how hunting and shooting at gun clubs can provide an important outlet for them. As most of us have heard, Chris Kyle (of American Sniper fame) was killed (along with a friend) when a soldier with PTSD shot them at a firing range. Perhaps it’s not a great idea to give severe PTSD sufferers firearms, until they have been able to recover sufficiently.
Apparently those voting no on this bill are also against having a registry of felons convicted of violent offenses, something that 49 other states already do, and which law officers want.
In closing, Rep.Fiske says “I wish someone could tell me where the problem is.” This really has me stumped. After all the “moving as well as thought-provoking” discussion by his fellow legislators, how can he be at such a loss to know what the problems might be? Maybe he wasn’t listening ?
But the most puzzling of all is Rep. Fiske’s “vote explanation”, which ironically was the identical speech used by both Rep. Marianna Gamache ,(R-Swanton ), and Rep.Rodney Graham,(R- Williamstown ), to “explain” their votes at the time. (See House Journal ).
This is a segment of the speech he repeats in his letter : “Tens of thousands of dollars in special interest money from outside of Vermont has poured into campaigns, lobbyists and in marketing efforts designed to scare constituents into believing we have a gun violence problem in Vermont…”
I wonder how it was that Reps. Fiske, Gamache, and Graham each came up with the same identical speech? Who are their speechwriters? What outside interests, pouring money to influence “campaigns, lobbyists, and marketing efforts”, bade our two Franklin County representatives to stand up on the House floor and mimic each other with a speech that sounded like those “special interests” wrote it for them? I am sure that other Franklin County residents would want to know.