Nearly a dozen communities and counting have approved a nonbinding Gun Owners of Vermont resolution declaring themselves a “sanctuary” from further government restrictions on firearms.
“The town hereby recognizes the inalienable rights of all persons within its boundaries to keep and bear arms as described by both Article Sixteen of the Vermont Constitution and the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America,” the resolution states in part.
The grassroots group notes that because state law prohibits localities from regulating firearms and ammunition, “these resolutions are non-legally binding and purely symbolic.
“We do not seek to create litigation, nor do we encourage anyone to break the law,” it says in a statement on its website. “Rather we encourage this as a symbolic act of civil disobedience to help our voices be heard.”
Gun Owners of Vermont, which promotes a “no-compromise position against gun control,” is pushing the resolution as a string of mass shootings is spurring calls for more legislation at the state and federal level.
“Gun owners are a very independent bunch — we don’t like being told what to do,” group president Eric Davis of Roxbury says. “People are getting frustrated we’re not being listened to. We’d like to adopt this resolution to get the message out.”
The group has secured the support of selectboards in Arlington, Clarendon, Concord, Derby, Holland, Irasburg, Morgan, Searsburg, Stamford, Pittsford, Poultney and Pownal and is set to present the proposal at several coming town meetings.
“We have two dozen more towns that are in some stage of the process,” Davis says. “A lot of selectboards don’t feel comfortable passing it on their own so they tell people to bring it up at town meeting.”
A resolution “sales pitch” on the Gun Owners of Vermont website pushes back against “recent and growing hostility” by people supporting more restrictions.
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“Law-abiding gun owners continue to be blamed for the horrendous acts of violence which continue to plague our country and, to a much lesser extent, our state,” it says. “While there is no doubt that our society does in fact seem to have a problem with violence, criminalizing peaceful people for owning a tool to protect their families will solve no problems and do nothing except create more criminals.”
Gun owners nationwide have won support for “sanctuary” resolutions in more than 400 municipalities in 20 states, with some of the articles simply reminding people of their Second Amendment rights and others calling for communities to stop enforcing government restrictions on firearms.
The Vermont group understands why people are worried about mass shootings.
“We feel very strongly about our rights, but it doesn’t take away our concerns,” Davis says. “We don’t like to see violence. Every time we hear about a shooting we cringe because we know what’s coming next.”
But the group, which opposed a 2018 series of state gun-control measures including expanded background checks and raising the minimum purchase age to 21, believes more regulation isn’t going to stop a problem that current statutes have yet to curb.
“We already have laws — it seems to us it’s more gun control for the sake of passing more gun control,” Davis says. “It’s a bigger issue than just dealing with the device.”
Gun Owners of Vermont, which reports more than 7,000 members on its Facebook page, has yet to find the resolution sparking public contention, perhaps because of its nonbinding nature. The group hopes it instead will promote conversation.
“Being a gun-rights lobbyist is a tough job these days,” Davis says. “People say ‘you gun owners are so stubborn.’ We’re playing defense all the time. The point we’re trying to make is we’re not your enemy, we’re your friends and neighbors. We just want to be left alone.”