Mares: Assault Weapon Ban

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(Host) Ever since the school murders in Connecticut three weeks ago
Commentator and Burlington resident Bill Mares has been thinking about
assault weapons in our society.

(Mares) It was the last day of
hunting season. I sat in a blind on Lake Champlain, my shotgun on my
lap, and scanned the skies for birds. But the ducks were few and far
between, so I had time to think about other things, like the massacre of
twenty-seven children and adults at Newtown, Connecticut the week

This foggy morning my thoughts were similar to those I
‘d had after the mass killings in Columbine high school and the movie
theater in Aurora, Colorado… the mall in Portland Oregon…Virginia Tech,
Arizona, Wisconsin… and on and on, murder after murder. I couldn’t help
but wonder what comes next? An attack with assault rifles on a neo-natal

I’ve been around guns my entire life, firing one shot
at a time at deer and ducks and geese with never a need for assault
weapons – guns that weren’t designed for civilian target practice, but
rather for killing people, in combat. For civilians, I think assault
weapons are gun pornography.

And though hunting season is now
long gone, I keep thinking about this gun culture of ours – with its
toxic mix of high powered weapons, violent video games, a never-ending
war on terror and its companion climate of fear, an all -volunteer army
with lots of civilians needing an outlet for their aggressions, and a
centuries-old love of guns. The New York Times reports that gun makers
of weapons like the Bushmaster, used in Newtown and Aurora are paying
video game makers to incorporate their weapons  in to ever more
realistic episodes.

For days after the Newtown shootings, the
leading gun advocate, the National Rifle Association, had little to say –
beyond the bizarre suggestion that armed guards should be posted to all
schools in the land.

But then came a ray of hope.

city councilor Norm Blais proposed a charter change to ban
semi-automatic weapons and multiple-ammo clips in the city of Burlington
and to levy a hefty fine on those in possession of such arms. He
finally said, "Enough!"

Blais acknowledges that the legislative
process is long. All municipal charter changes must get Legislative
approval. Moreover, there are some politicians who believe that Vermont
cannot seriously influence gun regulation at the national level, despite
our leadership on health care, clean energy, nuclear power, and
same-sex marriage.

Not Norm Blais.

And not State Senator
Philip Baruth, who has requested a bill be drafted to regulate the sale
of high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15.

are admittedly small steps – but you have to start somewhere. Common
sense, public safety and public health all demand for something to be
done. And with our national leadership still reluctant to confront the
powerful gun lobby , we must consider how to protect our own. How
satisfying it was then, on Monday evening, to see after two and a half
hours of contentious but civil debate, the Burlington City Council voted
10-3 in favor of Blais’ motion. Now it’s on to Montpelier.

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