The first month of the legislative session wrapped up this past week, and boy, it’s been a rough one already. Six (very) anti-gun bills have been introduced thus far with more likely to follow in the coming days. Thursday marked Groundhog Day and with the sun peeking through the winter clouds, Phil Baruth emerged from his district in Chittenden County, whereupon he saw his shadow, became frightened, and promptly returned to his cold, miserable hole to author six more terrible gun control bills.
In all seriousness though, the bills we have seen so far are bad. Like really bad. A full list of proposed anti-gun legislation so far can be viewed on our website here, but several bills deserve special mention at this point. For the sake of brevity, we will be covering just the worst of the worst today but getting to all the details has already turned my modest column into a 1629 word monstrosity, so grab a blanket to stay warm, a cup of your favorite beverage and kick back and (try to) enjoy this week’s GoVT updates.
We begin our journey into the absurd with Bill S.4, as that is currently the only bill to see significant committee action. To briefly review, S.4 seeks to expand the list of people prohibited from possessing a firearm, and more notably, contains language to establish a legal definition for the term “assault weapon” and prohibit persons under 21 from possessing them.
The committee has already taken testimony from GoVT, VTFSC and VTC on the bill which largely focused on the constitutionality of such proposed legislation and has largely appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. When reminded of the new standard of scrutiny imposed by SCOTUS in the Bruen decision -the standard by which ALL gun control legislation must now be judged- several members of the committee openly scoffed and expressed their displeasure at the ruling. Committee chair, Senator Dick Sears expressed his displeasure that “with mass shootings occurring almost every day now, the Supreme Court seems to be going backwards on this” while Senator Baruth repeatedly referred to the Bruen decision as “insane.”
In an effort to reinforce their implicit bias, the committee has adopted the classic “hear what you want to hear” tactic and will be bringing in Duke Law School Professor Darrell A. H. Miller to testify on the subject. Professor Miller might be most famous for his 2009 paper, titled “Guns as Smut: Defending the Home-Bound Second Amendment” where he argues that firearms ownership should basically be treated like pornography and kept locked behind closed doors. (I’ll let you, the reader, dissect that one for yourself but might suggest you do so before eating as Professor Miller’s masterpiece will likely make you want to want to vomit.)
In response to this atrocity, the gun rights groups have lobbied the committee to bring in our own expert on firearms legislation and Senator Sears has reluctantly allowed us to do so. Therefore, Dr. John Lott from the Crime Prevention Research Center will be joining us this Friday to give testimony to the extent that this sort of legislation is, in fact, both unconstitutional and ineffective, and that Darrell Miller is basically full of sh*t. (Okay, I added that last part on my own, but you get the idea.)
Professor Miller will be given an hour or more of the committee’s time to make his power point presentation, while Dr. Lott will be allowed 15 minutes to say whatever he has to say and then get the hell out. Once again, it seems proponents of gun rights are being treated as more of a nuisance to be tolerated begrudgingly for the sake of show, rather than the experts that they are, or even people whose opinion warrants any sort of valid consideration, but I digress.
Anyhow, moving along, if you’ve made it this far without throwing something across the room in utter disgust, congratulations! Give yourself a big pat on the back and take an extra handful of blood-pressure medication because you’re going to need it for this next part.
Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself: “Golly, these folks in the legislature are probably just a bit confused, and they really mean well, and that there have been an awful lot of shootings lately, so maybe they’re just trying their best to help curb the violence and deep down inside they really do respect the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental corollary of the basic human right of self-defense, right? Right?!?” Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
Allow me to introduce Exhibit A: –Bill S.31– which not only prohibits open carry of a firearm in the original Constitutional Carry state of Vermont (before the term “Constitutional Carry” gained traction nationally, it was once upon a time called “Vermont Carry” *sigh*), this steaming pile of proposed legislation also seeks to amend 13 VSA 2305 -VT’s justifiable homicide statute- “to provide that a person may not raise self-defense, or the defense of others as a legal defense if 1) The person’s use of defensive force did not occur in the person’s home or dwelling; and 2) The person had other means of avoiding the defensive use of force at the time.” (More commonly known as a “duty to run away.”)
Instead of writing another whole article here on the obvious abomination that is Bill S.31, allow me to simply put it in context by introducing Exhibit B: –Bill H.98– which, among a litany of other horrible ideas, proposes to require “that a firearm not in a person’s immediate possession or control to be secured in such a way to render it inoperable and to be stored separately from ammunition.”
Did you catch that? Let’s review: In response to the rise in violent crime in Vermont, your gracious rulers propose that you WILL be charged and convicted of a homicide should you have the audacity to defend yourself with the use of deadly force anywhere but in your own home where you WILL NOT be allowed access to your firearms under penalty of law. Oh, and you must first make a reasonable attempt to either run away, or give the murderer, kidnapper, rapist etc., what they want in the hopes that they leave you alone. Not only will your natural right to defend yourself and your family be neutered to such an extent that you might only exercise it behind closed doors, but if -God forbid- the time ever comes that you must defend your life or the lives of your family inside your own home, you will be sure not to have access to the means with which to do so. This is nothing short of a full-on attack on the right of self-defense in Vermont.
So, at this point you probably have some questions. Like: “What the *^&%@#$!? I mean, what in the actual *&%^$@#!*&^%$!?!?!? The Supreme Court rules that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right that exists independently from service in a militia, for which you don’t have to show a justifiable need, and cannot be treated as a second-class right to be kept behind closed doors, then they try to pull this crap? Isn’t that perjury?!?!?!”
Well….. yes. But good luck getting an activist attorney general to bring charges as such. You hear us say all the time that elections have consequences and this is a prime example. Failure on our part to get the vote out has resulted in an emboldened supermajority of anti-gun and anti-rights activists that are angered by the Bruen and Dobbs decisions and see it as their duty to advance legislation that challenges the Supreme Court, which they view as a conservative entity. Phil Baruth himself has said as much.
Still, that doesn’t mean that we are completely down and out. When it comes to gun rights, Bruen is the gift that keeps on giving. Almost all of the legislation proposed thus far has already been challenged in other states and is currently working its way through the courts, likely to be ruled unconstitutional once and for all under the new standards of scrutiny.
Furthermore, even with a radical supermajority bent on attacking gun rights, one can’t help but get the feeling that the folks in that building are still keenly aware of our presence and influence, as much as they try to pretend otherwise. If they weren’t we likely wouldn’t see the enormous amount of effort being spent to suppress our point of view and make us seem irrelevant. As the Dalai Lama once famously said: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
This philosophy can be applied to our current situation but only if gun rights activists stick together and remain positive. Negativity and infighting have been the Achilles heel of the gun culture for years and if we want to make progress we need to function as a team. You have every right to be extremely pissed off about what is happening here -in fact, if you’re not spitting mad by now, you’re probably in the wrong group- but if we want to be effective, it’s gong to take every one of us channeling that anger into constructive solutions to influence a positive outcome.
Be kind to one another, be supportive and lend a helping hand wherever you can, whether it’s writing emails and op-eds, making phone calls, or just doing something simple like becoming a paid member of GoVT. We can all do our part to affect our situation if we stick together and stand up for what’s right.
In the meantime, stay tuned to GoVT for more updates.
President, Gun Owners of Vermont.