BARRE — Mayor Thomas Lauzon asked nicely late last week, and on Monday representatives of the Barre Fish & Game Club politely rejected his request that they ban the display and sale of military-style assault firearms and high-capacity magazines at their 30th annual gun show next month.
“They were complete gentlemen,” Lauzon said of representatives of the club who met with him, Chief Tim Bombardier and Facilities Director Jeff Bergeron. The meeting’s agenda also included the rental agreement the club needs to hold its two-day show at the Barre Municipal Auditorium starting Feb. 9.
Lauzon pitched his request for a ban as a simple show of respect in the wake of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn. last month.
“This isn’t a ‘gun control’ issue and never was,” Lauzon said, explaining his request was merely an attempt to manage the emotions of those — himself excluded — who don’t believe there should be a gun show in Barre at all in the aftermath of a high-profile, gun-related tragedy.
“I think it would be the respectful thing to do, (but) they choose not to do it. … That’s the end of the discussion,” he said.
Although Lauzon didn’t get what he asked for, he said the meeting was a refreshing change after a weekend during which he was bombarded by armchair constitutional scholars and “self-appointed spokesmen” for the club, who questioned his motives, his integrity and his authority.
“I got some valuable insight over how people react to just having the discussion,” he said.
The item is on tonight’s City Council agenda, but Lauzon said he didn’t ask that it be placed there.
“It could be a short discussion,” he said, suggesting he isn’t willing to support issuing any ultimatums.
“Before a small-town mayor from Barre, Vermont, starts banning anything, there’s a lot more discussion that has to occur,” he said.
Contacted for comment, gun show organizer John Simanskas deferred to the mayor and said a second meeting with Bombardier is scheduled for Thursday night to outline the details of the rental agreement. At issue, he said, is working out the mechanics of a proposed requirement that those who bring their personal firearms to sell at the show enlist the assistance of a federally licensed firearms dealer to conduct background checks on the prospective buyer.
Simanskas said there would be a fee for that service, but he was hoping to keep it “reasonable.”
“I’ll know more on Friday,” he said.
Lauzon said he is a proponent of making background checks mandatory for all firearms transactions — not just those involving licensed gun dealers, as is the case now — and believed the city should do everything in its power to require them at a gun show that is held on city property.
“It’s our responsibility,” he said, noting that police departments in Barre and Montpelier have been working with state police and two federal agencies on controlling firearms distribution in their communities for the past 18 months. He said the idea of strongly encouraging — if not requiring — background checks involving private gun transactions was an outgrowth of that initiative.
“I would never in a million years sell a firearm to anyone I didn’t know well … like a family member,” he said.
Working with the club, Lauzon said he was confident the city could ensure background checks are conducted for all firearms transactions that occur inside the auditorium by making it a condition of the rental agreement.
Meanwhile, he said the city’s traffic ordinance provides an “airtight” mechanism to guard against private sales occurring in the parking lot.
According to Lauzon, the ordinance states that it is unlawful “to park a vehicle from which merchandise or service is sold or offered for sale, or displayed for sale or exhibition without permission of the council.”
Lauzon interprets that to apply to anything transported in a vehicle for possible sale — whether it is popcorn, Girl Scout cookies, an old shotgun or an assault rifle. It is unclear how that provision of the ordinance would apply to someone who walked to the auditorium.
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