Lauzon targets ‘assault firearms’ at gun showJeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo
Norwich University graduate Joshua Chang examines a gun at the Barre Fish and Game Club's annual gun show last winter at the Barre Municipal Auditorium.
BARRE — Mayor Thomas Lauzon has asked organizers of next month’s Central Vermont Gun Show to ban the display and sale of “military-style assault firearms” and high-capacity magazines at the popular two-day event, where plainclothes security will be stepped up.
“For me it’s really just about being respectful and sensitive in light of recent events,” Lauzon said, referring to the school shooting that claimed 26 lives — including 20 young pupils — in Connecticut last month.
“Gun control is a very emotional issue, and I don’t want to add to that emotion,” Lauzon said, defending the ban he suggested to the Barre Fish and Game Club, which has been holding the annual gun show for the past 30 years.
Lauzon stressed he isn’t issuing any ultimatums but said he believes the club should take his advice.
“For the sake of the gun show this is the best move they could make,” he said.
Lauzon said he sent a letter to the club’s board of trustees and has spoken briefly with John Simanskas, who is organizing the gun show to be held at the Barre Civic Center complex Feb. 9 and 10.
According to Lauzon, a more formal conversation with Simanskas — one that will include Chief Tim Bombardier — is set for Monday morning.
Though the city owns the civic center, Lauzon acknowledged its ability to restrict the display and sale of firearms and accessories that are legal is probably limited.
“I don’t know that we can ‘require’ … and I’m not ready to do that,” he said.
Contacted for comment Friday, Simanskas agreed with the mayor’s assessment.
“Legally they really can’t tell us what to do up there (at the civic center),” he said, suggesting the club is probably in the same boat with the show’s participants — most of them licensed gun dealers.
“It’s up to the vendors,” he said. “They rent table space. It’s a gun show, you know.”
Simanskas said he would wait until after meeting with Bombardier and Lauzon next week to make any additional comments, but he expressed frustration over the fallout from the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“It’s unfortunate some idiot did what he did in Connecticut and now the whole gun world is getting blamed for it,” he said.
Lauzon said he understood Simanskas’ frustration and appreciated the work of the fish and game club. He described his call for a ban on the display and sale of the type of weapons and accessories used in the Connecticut shooting as a “simple gesture of respect and sensitivity.”
Lauzon, who recalled taking his hunter safety course at the Barre Fish and Game Club more than 40 years ago, said he believed in the organization and its mission.
“I do support legal and responsible firearm ownership, and I value the Barre Fish and Game Club,” he said.
“I absolutely support the gun show because it promotes the legal sale of firearms and accessories in a controlled and monitored setting,” he added.
This year, Lauzon said, that setting will be monitored more closely than usual.
“We’re going to make undercover officers available, and they will be controlling the parking lot,” he said, noting officers will be on the lookout for the illegal sale and transfer of weapons.
According to Lauzon, Bombardier has reached out to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and planned to make the requisite forms available so private collectors and others who aren’t licensed to sell guns can conduct those transactions without breaking the law.
“The forms and the mechanism will be available to do that,” he said.
According to Lauzon, Bombardier plans to request that registered gun dealers in the show display their federal licenses.
In Rutland, where a gun show will open at the Howe Center at the end of March, Mayor Christopher Louras said he wouldn’t intervene in the event unless extraordinary circumstances existed.
“Unless a public safety professional like the police chief felt there was a compelling reason to get involved then I would take no role in their affairs,” Louras said. “Frankly, I think there are better ways to expend energy and address issues with firearms.”
For starters, he said, he wants to see Vermont pass legislation similar to a federal law that makes it a crime for a person convicted of a felony — or at the least convicted of a violent felony — to possess a firearm.
Moreover, Rutland’s mayor said he wants to see greater emphasis on what he calls the “common denominator” in rampage shootings like the one at Sandy Hook: issues of mental illness.
“It’s no less a tragedy for someone to walk into a school and murder six kids with a revolver than to go in and kill 20 with an assault weapon,” Louras said. “It’s just as much a tragedy caused by a person with a mental health issue who was allowed to possess a firearm weapon. Until we address our failed mental health system, the problem isn’t going to go away.”
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