Several Vermont mayors are banding together to ask Washington to adopt gun control legislation. One month after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., the mayors are joining a national movement.
"This is a moment when it’s important to speak out," says Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger who has encouraged three of his counterparts in Vermont to join a national bi-partisan coalition against illegal guns.
The coalition, which has more than 800 mayors, is calling for background checks for all gun buyers.
Weinberger says the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown should prompt state and local leaders to call for new gun laws from Congress. "There is a broad support for fixing the national background check system," Weinberger says. "I think that is a system that is best fixed at the national level."
The coalition seeks criminal background checks on all gun sales, including sales at gun shows. And it also hopes to renew a national ban on the sale of military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. So far, Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon, Rutland Mayor Chris Louras and Montpelier Mayor John Hollar have joined the group.
Hollar says that cities and towns, the Vermont Legislature and Congress need to act together. "As leaders we have an obligation to do what we can to take steps to protect that next community, that next school, that next public space where a tragedy like this may occur," Hollar says.
Although he doesn’t support a ban on weapons and magazines, Mayor Lauzon in Barre does support expanding the background check database. "I just hope we can get past the divisive issues and enact positive change," says Lauzon, who signed the group’s petition only after blacking out certain principles.
The debate over gun control continues as gun dealers in Vermont are reporting a rapid growth in gun sales.
"It’s been a record month," says Henry Parro, the owner of Parro’s Gun Shop in Waterbury.
Parro says new gun laws would undermine the right to bear arms without affecting any real change.
"If the government says you can’t have this and you’re a law abiding citizen, it creates a little bit of a demand for it," explains Parro, who thinks the mayors’ initiative is a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic event.
Meanwhile, Mayor Miro Weinberger is urging all mayors in Vermont to join the coalition.