In a recent VT Digger opinion piece, ironically titled: “listen to the majority, not the gun lobby,” Clai Lasher-Sommers, executive director of the gun control group Gun Sense VT, lamented what she described as political capitulation by governor Phil Scott – the same Republican governor who signed into law a massive package of infringements in 2017– to the “corporate gun lobby” for vetoing the proposed waiting period bill in 2019. Without speculation on the influence of corporate money in New Hampshire politics, which is where the director actually lives, I can tell you firsthand that in Vermont, the PEOPLE are the gun lobby and we ARE the majority.
Let’s start with the fact that when the topic of infringement *cough -I mean- “gun safety measures” inevitably gets brought up every year, gun owners turn out overwhelmingly against it. We pack the committee hearings in opposition on an average ratio of about ten to one – we know this because we all wear orange and the place looks like a giant pumpkin patch every single time. We’ve testified at length about Vermont’s proud tradition of consistently being one of the safest states in the nation without the need of regulating guns yet for some reason, our “leaders” in Montpelier have found it necessary in recent years to cram it down our throats as they do with most other things.
Curiously, no one seemed to mind Vermont’s lack of oppressive controls *ahem -I mean- “common sense gun laws” until Gun Sense showed up a few years ago and started telling us that we had a problem. Gun control had long been considered the third rail of politics in a rural, peaceful and tolerant Vermont which consistently ranks in the top three safest states in the nation year after year. While Gun Sense remains tight-lipped about where their funding comes from, their inception incidentally came around the same time that New York billionaire and civilian disarmament proponent Michael Bloomberg announced that he would be spending over 100 million dollars of his own money lobbying at the State level for more gun control in America. Bloomberg, the man who banned the Big Gulp while mayor of New York City, insisted that due to the influence of the NRA in Washington and the unwillingness of Congress to pass gun control at a federal level, the battle must be fought in the States. Interestingly, this narrative was parroted by Lasher-Somers in the aforementioned article, pushing the idea that Vermont’s desire to be left alone was somehow manufactured by the evil, faceless, “gun lobby,” while conveniently leaving out the fact that her organization of paid lobbyists is directed and funded by a tyrannical billionaire accustomed to buying legislation with his massive wealth.
Much of the pro-gun lobbying in Vermont is done by members of The Sportsman’s Federation and Gun Owners of VT, who are local, non-profit groups with a combined total of zero paid positions and exactly zero financial support from the NRA. We raise money ourselves, a couple bucks at a time and rely heavily on the 80% of households in the state with guns to help influence our elected officials. While the gun control lobby is outspending us at a ratio of three to one (source: https://lobbying.sec.state.vt.us/), and bussing in children to help push these ridiculous restrictions, Vermonter’s from across the State, many of whom are not even affiliated with the sportsman’s groups, personally leave work early the day of these hearings to testify on their own behalf. I can’t personally think of a more grassroots movement than one comprised of free-thinking individuals, who of their own volition, take precious time out of their own schedules to say NO, over and over and over again. It seems Clai is right in her assertion that out-of-state corporate money is hard at work buying legislation in the green mountains, the question is: for whom?
The director of Gun Sense (did I mention she lives in New Hampshire?), would have us believe that the Vermont legislature is not listening to the will of the people and that Vermonters are fed up with their voices not being heard. We the grassroots gun lobby, wholeheartedly agree. While Gun Sense is busy throwing Bloomberg’s money around and beating us over the head with the idea that cherished Vermont traditions are somehow a BAD thing, we are busy organizing as well. Vermont might have a track record for voting blue, but make no mistake, we are a vibrantly purple State, growing increasingly tired with the invasive policies coming out of Montpelier and the out-of-state money that’s pushing them. Vermonters certainly have had enough. And 2020 is coming.
Eric Davis – Vice President
Gun Owners of Vermont