Something to write home about for April

Dear Editor,

Thoughts about guns

By the time readers have this article, Gov. Scott will have signed the various gun safety bills. The discussion has been intense. In one 24-hour stretch I was accused of “shredding the Constitution” for supporting all the recent gun safety bills, and I was accused of taking NRA bribes because we didn’t do more. I have several reactions, first to note that calling people names is not persuasive. Second, I do understand how deeply people feel on all sides of the gun issue. Neither fighting for freedom nor fighting for children’s lives is an activity that lends itself to calm, measured reasoning.

Obviously, I disagree with the claim that the Legislature has shredded the Constitution. Reasonable safety regulation is not an unconstitutional infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. Those who remain convinced that we’ve violated the Second Amendment have recourse to the courts, and no doubt there will be lawsuits. I welcome them. If the legislature has indeed violated the Second Amendment, the Constitution must prevail. If, as I’m convinced, our work is constitutional, the courts will vindicate us.

I think the strongest argument against these bills is that they may be ineffective, hard to enforce, and easy to evade. But I don’t agree they won’t accomplish anything. I think it will be harder for deranged people to get guns at all, and especially hard to get the most effective guns. Surely removing guns from red flag situations will save the lives of domestic violence victims and potential suicides.

“The gods of the valleys are not the gods of the hills.”

I’m saddened by the view of some opponents that the gun safety effort is a kind of culture war against Vermont traditions and values, an effort to change Vermont, and make it more like New York. Some argue that we’re a safe state and so there is no need for legislation. Why change?

I for one have no interest in changing Vermont to be more like anyone. But I recognize that we are not immune to the changes taking place around us and close to us. If not for the level headedness and courage of one young woman in New York, we would likely have been the site of the next school massacre. That was too close for comfort. Yes, we’re a safe state. We should keep it that way.

Process

True, we didn’t do more. What we did do reflects the compromises and accommodations that built a bipartisan majority. Such compromise and accommodation offend folks who would prefer purely principled battle to “deal making.” But I think such “deals” most closely express the aggregate, collective will of the people’s elected representatives, which presumably represents the elusive will of the people.

Speaking of which, the claim that we ignored the will of the people is not supported by research. Public opinion appears to me to support gun safety. But a legislator has a duty to follow his/her own best judgment, in any case, not to merely sniff the wind. That duty includes the understanding that the people get the last word at the next election.

Sincerely,

Sen. Dick McCormack

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