MONTPELIER — A well-attended rally on the steps of the Statehouse last month helped kill a proposed ban on assault weapons. Now one woman wants to use a similar tactic to bring it back to life.
Montpelier resident Danielle LaFleur Brooks says the voices of Vermonters who support stricter gun control measures have been drowned out by a better organized opposition. At a rally outside the Statehouse on Saturday morning, Brooks aims to demonstrate to lawmakers the intensity of public support for new curbs on guns.
“I’m beginning to realize that the other side is really loud and really good at getting their side heard,” Brooks said. “I just wanted to create a space for the other side to show there are other voices out there.”
Brooks said she saw the power of public protest last month, when about 250 activists convened outside the Statehouse one Saturday to decry the assault weapons ban. Less than 24 hours later, Sen. Philip Baruth, the Chittenden County Democrat who introduced it, notified colleagues that he intended to withdraw the proposed ban.
“I thought we were at least going to have a conversation about this,” Brooks said. “And I was just so upset to see it taken off the table like that.”
While Brooks’ event was born out of a desire to realize a ban on assault weapons, she says the rally is designed to spotlight public support for a range of control measures. Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson, an Essex Democrat, has introduced legislation in the Vermont House that would, among other things, impose a statewide ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and require background checks at gun shows.
Waite-Simpson, who plans to attend the 10 a.m. Saturday rally, said she’s heartened to see proponents of gun control coming together.
“The pro-gun groups in this state are very well networked and very well organized, and there isn’t any equivalent on the other side,” Waite-Simpson said. “This is an opportunity to show legislators that there are people who support these ideas, and there is an appetite for legislation that really is just trying to limit the carnage.”
Rep. Bill Lippert, a Hinesburg Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that he intends to hold a committee hearing on the Waite-Simpson bill at some point this session. But the legislation faces an uphill battle in a chamber where House Speaker Shap Smith, like Gov. Peter Shumlin, favors “a 50-state solution” over state-specific gun control measures.
“We will take testimony,” Lippert said. “I can’t say what will happen after that.”
Montpelier Mayor John Hollar, one of several mayors last month to call on lawmakers to take on the gun control issue, is scheduled to speak at the rally.
“My interest is in promoting common-sense efforts to minimize these large-scale human disasters where you have people using military-style assault weapons to kill large numbers of people,” Hollar said.
Hollar said he’s well aware of the political hurdles facing proponents of the gun legislation.
“But I think over time public shows of support for these common-sense measures have some impact,” he said. “It’s clear that Congress is very unlikely and unwilling to act, so just like we do on many other subject areas, I think it’s important for individual states to take the lead.”
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