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Vermont's Congressional Delegation Supports Bi-Partisan Gun Control Legislation

Angela Evancie
VPR file
Rep. Peter Welch, left, and Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy appear with their wives in Burlington on election night in November, 2014. All three members say they support a bi-partisan gun control compromise offered by Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

All three members of Vermont's Congressional delegation say they support a bi-partisan gun control compromise offered by Maine Sen. Susan Collins. And the delegation views the Collins proposal as just the first step in restricting access to firearms.

Sen. Collins offered her plan after the U.S. Senate deadlocked two weeks ago on the issue of gun control in a series of partisan votes.

Collins' proposal is supported by eight Republican senators, although it's opposed by Senate Republican leaders.

The compromise bans the sale of weapons to anyone on the so-called "no fly list" and it includes an appeals process if a person thinks that they've been incorrectly added to that list.

The plan also notifies the FBI if an individual who has been the subject of a terrorism investigation in the last five years attempts to purchase a firearm.

Congressman Peter Welch says he supports the Collins approach.

“I think we've got to try in Congress to at least acknowledge that the status quo isn't working, and we've got to do something that's sensible and balanced but does protect due process rights,” Welch says. “So if a person is improperly on, for instance, the no watch list, they're not going to penalized, because that's the government's problem, not theirs. But that we've got to do something not just stand idly by."

In a written statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy said, "There is much more Congress must do to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, but the Collins amendment is an important first step and Republican leaders should give it a meaningful vote."

Sen. Bernie Sanders also addressed this issue in a written statement: "It is extremely distressing that Republicans are unwilling to pass a serious bill to address the epidemic of gun violence in this country. While the Collins' bill is weak, I will support it."

Congressman Welch says the time has also come for Congress to seriously debate banning the sale of "military-style" assault weapons.

“And we'll have a big fight about what the right definition, is but I really don't see why those should be readily-available to any and all buyers when they can be used in ways that do such harm and cause such heartbreak to so many families,” Welch says.

Evan Hughes, the vice president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, argues that these Congressional efforts will do nothing to curb gun violence in this country.

“Terrorists and criminals do not comply with any gun laws and it's certainly possible for them to circumvent just about any legislation if it's enacted into law,” Hughes says. “It [the legislation] will only impede law-abiding citizens from getting access to firearms." 

Backers of Collins' plan are hoping they'll have a chance to vote on it later this week, but there's no guarantee that the bill will be scheduled for action on the Senate floor.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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