• Gun rights advocates mount opposition to legislation
     | February 25,2013

    MONTPELIER — Gun rights advocates have collected more than 400 signatures for a petition opposing eight bills being evaluated by the Legislature, an organizer said Sunday.

    That petition opposes numerous gun-control measures, and it covers proposed laws ranging from one that would put a limit on magazine rounds to one that would generally impose criminal penalties on guardians if children obtain guns in the home and then cause harm or commit crimes.

    During a Saturday rally at the Statehouse called to demonstrate support for Second Amendment rights and opposition to new gun-control and gun-safety measures, multiple petitions circulated about proposed Vermont legislation. One of the petitions takes specific issue with six House bills and two Senate bills that certain gun rights advocates consider invasive and unnecessary because, they argue, existing gun laws aren’t being adequately enforced.

    “We’re not unreasonable people. We support strengthening the background check system” at gun shows and for incidents involving mental health issues, said Jacob Rothenbeck, of South Hero, who helped circulate a petition.

    “We’re willing to give up a pinky, but they’re wanting to chop off the entire arm,” Rothenbeck said, adding, “Unfortunately they try to do everything at once.”

    H.124 would ban certain ammunition magazines and feeder devices that hold more than 10 rounds.

    “Most standard rifle magazines that come with a rifle average between 20 to 40,” Rothenbeck said. “We believe that standard mags are acceptable.”

    The bill includes other measures that Rothenbeck and others support.

    One such requirement is for medical facilities to report to a national criminal background check system when a patient is treated for a mental health issue that puts the person or others at risk, or when a person is found not guilty of a crime due to insanity or mental incompetency.

    Another bill, H.243, proposes penalties against guardians if children obtain weapons and cause harm to others or themselves or commit crimes. Under certain circumstances a person would be indemnified, including if a locking device or lock box is in place.

    The rally’s organizer, Anthony Commo, said he didn’t think he would necessarily be opposed to that legislation. One condition of the law would be that a person must be responsible for the child in order to be convicted.

    Rothenbeck expressed the concern that certain locking devices could make it difficult to readily use a weapon in self-defense against an intruder.

    Another bill, H.335, calls for a 48-hour waiting period for gun sales by firearms dealers. The legislation also calls for the repeal of the gun silencer ban and guarantees that purchases of firearm trigger locks and gun safes are not subject to state income or sales taxes. The proposal also sets aside $450,000 for the state Fish and Wildlife Department to upgrade firing ranges.

    Another bill, H.336, seeks to increase the penalty for carrying a firearm while committing a felony, raising the possible jail time from five to 10 years, and would reclassify reckless endangerment as a felony when it involves a firearm.

    That particular legislation states that “recklessness and danger shall be presumed where a person knowingly points a firearm at or in the direction of another,” regardless of whether the gun is loaded.

    Gun rights advocates say, as a general matter, that existing laws should be enforced before new laws are enacted.

    david.taube @timesargus.com

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