Vt. Delegation Weighs In On Gun Laws

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All three members of Vermont’s Congressional delegation say it’s essential that Congress explores practical and meaningful steps to help prevent another mass shooting, like the one that took place in Connecticut last week.

Congressman Peter Welch said the shootings in Newtown have had a profound impact on Congress and that the killings are "a game changer" for the issue of gun control in Washington.

Welch said the discussion should include a number of issues including a ban on semi automatic assault weapons, funding for mental health services and background checks for gun shows.

"If we’re there and we talk about this in an open way, we acknowledge that we just can’t expose our kids to this kind of threat," said Welch. "But we can do that in a way where we respect the long tradition that we’re really proud of in Vermont of responsible gun use."

And Welch thinks it’s possible to balance legitimate gun use with some new restrictions.

"I mean what happened in Newtown has nothing to do with responsible gun use, obviously so what steps can we take, all of us, including the NRA to be responsible and try to take practical steps that are going to avert this from happening again."

Senator Bernie Sanders voted for the original assault weapon ban back in 1994 and he’s willing to consider a new ban. He says the debate will certainly be different after last week’s tragedy.

"I hope it wakes the people of this country up and Congress up to understand that we have to deal with what is becoming an epidemic of mass killings," he said.

Sanders said it’s critical to remember that there’s no single answer to this problem and that a comprehensive solution is needed.

"It’s a complicated problem which certainly deals with the need for a huge expansion in mental health capabilities in this country," said Sanders. "Frankly I think we have got to address the gratuitous violence that appears in so much media… and thirdly you’ve got to deal with the issue of guns."

Senator Patrick Leahy currently chairs the Senate Judiciary committee. He’s announced a hearing next month to look at the issue of violence in this country. Speaking on the Senate floor, he said it’s time for members of Congress to show some courage on this issue.

"If there are practical and sensible and workable answers to prevent such an unspeakable tragedy we should make the effort to find them," said Leahy. "And then, then Mr. President, we should have the courage — each and every one of us – to vote for those steps."

Leahy voted for the original assault weapon ban 18 years ago but his office says it’s too early in the process to determine if he will support a new one in January.

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