Yesterday’s Senate Vote: The Takeaway

Dear Friends,GunsenseVT

It’d be great if the U.S. Senate could act in line with what 90% of Americans want, but yesterday wasn’t the day. At least in Vermont we can be proud that both our Senators voted in favor of universal background checks and the “No Fly, No Buy” bill. Below is a powerful press release about Senator Leahy’s leadership on this issue, as well as a C-Span clip of his remarks yesterday in the Senate chamber. He has heard our voices clearly.

However, the takeaway from yesterday is not that progress is impossible. Instead, it means that the need for action at the state level is even more important. This is the time for us to rally behind our local candidates for state rep who support universal background checks and push back against those who don’t. You can donate your time or donate money to the cause, but choose one and show your commitment to making real progress on this issue.

To donate your time and be part of a volunteer team in support of candidates (with letter writing, helping with mailings, visibility events, or phone calling), click HERE.

To donate money to the GunSenseVT Victory Fund PAC to help support these candidates financially, click HERE.

Together, we will show the senators blocking basic gun reform that their inaction only drives us to take more action. They do NOT have the final say about gun laws in this country.

Thank you!the-u.s.capitol-dome-96
Ann

Ann Braden

President, Gun Sense Vermont

Here is the C-SPAN clip from yesterday in the Senate (Senator Leahy’s remarks start around 23:20).

And here is the press release about Senator Leahy:

One Week After Mass Shooting In Orlando, Leahy Urges Senators To Support Common Sense Legislation To Make Our Communities Safer

. . . On The Senate Floor, Leahy Responds To Vermont Teen’s Heartfelt Letter After The Orlando Massacre

WASHINGTON (Monday, June 20, 2016) – A Vermont teen recently penned an open letter urging Senator Leahy and all Senators to “do something. Something big,” in response to the mass shooting in Orlando that took 49 innocent lives.  The letter was written by a Vermont teenager named Ella Staats, and it appeared in the Vermont Digger as part of the Young Writers Project.

On Monday, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) took to the Senate floor to respond to Ms. Staats and all Americans who are calling on Congress to reform the nation’s gun laws.

“I want you to know that I have been working for years to find practical solutions that will stop the gun violence that continues to touch every corner of our country.  But I bet that the last thing you want is a list of all the bills I have written or voted for but have not passed.  You want to know how we are going to overcome the well-funded opposition to passage of laws that will reduce gun violence,” Leahy said.

Leahy, who last week joined an unscheduled floor discussion led by Senate Democrats to force a debate and votes on gun safety issues, reiterated his call for action hours before the Senate was poised to consider legislation to close loopholes in the background check system and prevent terrorists from obtaining firearms.

“I hope the votes that I cast on your behalf tonight demonstrate that I hear you and I agree that we must act to prevent the next Orlando,” he said.  “Ella, thank you for doing that – for speaking out and for holding us accountable.”

 

In the wake of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Leahy convened three high profile hearings of the Judiciary Committee on the issue of preventing gun violence.  The committee also reported four common sense bills under Leahy’s leadership including legislation to improve and expand the background check system, ban assault weapons, improve school safety, and combat the practice of straw purchasing and illegal trafficking in firearms.

 

Earlier this year, Leahy reintroduced the bipartisan Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act to make clear that the straw purchasing and trafficking of firearms are federal crimes.  The legislation strengthens ineffective laws exploited by criminals including the San Bernardino shooters to obtain firearms through a straw purchaser.

 

“In the wake of mass gun violence, whether the victims are members of the LGBT community, African American church parishioners, first graders in an elementary school, college students, military service members or others in our community, we are called as Americans to come together in solidarity,” Leahy said.  “We must come together to enact real solutions that will prevent further acts of senseless violence. 

Senator Leahy’s full remarks are available online.

Sr. Helen Prejean: “Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues”

New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Sr. Helen Prejean: “Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues”

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bishop Guertin High School, Nashua, NH
(Click here for directions)

7pm – 9pm

This event is free and open to the public

PLEASE SHARE WIDELY

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More news on yesterday’s vote:

NH 1 VIDEO: Tie vote in state Senate means death penalty repeal fails

Landrigan: State Senate deadlocks, effectively kills move to repeal the state’s death penalty

NHPR: N.H. Senate Deadlocks On Repealing Death Penalty

Restorative Justice Opportunities

Following you will find two upcoming restorative justice opportunities;


Pendle Hill

Beyond Crime and Punishment: Fostering Transformative Justice in Community

We envision a world where people who offend are not caged, exiled, and stigmatized for life, where public school children aren’t fodder for the school-to-prison pipeline, and where historic intergenerational wounds are acknowledged and healed.

Such a world is already in the making and looking for our support.

“Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offence and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” —Howard ZehrThe Little Book of Restorative Justice

A Conference for Inspiration, Education, Networking, and Action
Mar 10-13, 2016

Special guests: Kay Pranis, Joy DeGruy, Rev. Nelson and Joyce Johnson, Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, and many others!

Click to register online.


Introduction to Restorative Practices in Schools

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Click to visit.

Leahy Introduces BIPARTISAN Bill to Tackle Illegal Guns

Friends,
I have exciting news! Today Senator Leahy introduced a new bill, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2016, and it already has strong bipartisan support! Please take a moment to read the press release below and then call Senator Leahy’s office at (202) 224-4242 to thank him for his leadership! (You can also contact Senator Leahy through his website at: https://www.leahy.senate.gov/contact.)

GunsenseVT

Thank Senator Leahy for working to address the problem of illegal firearms. As he says below, “In Vermont and across the country, we have seen firearms serve as currency for illegal drugs.  Addicts are at times directed to straw purchase firearms by dealers who could not pass a background check themselves,” Senator Leahy said.  “It is time to take action – and only Congress can fill the gaps in our laws.  Congress must not become so numb to tragedy after tragedy that we fail to fulfill our responsibility to legislate.”

Let Senator Leahy know that you agree!

Thank you!
Ann

Leahy & Collins Unveil Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Illegal Straw Purchasing and Firearms Trafficking

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Feb. 11, 2016) – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced legislation on Thursday to combat the practice of straw purchasing and illegal trafficking in firearms.

The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2016 responds to calls from law enforcement officials for more effective tools to investigate and deter straw purchasers and gun traffickers.

Currently, there is no law that explicitly makes straw purchasing a crime, and it is only unlawful to traffic a firearm if the transferor had actual knowledge that the firearm would be used in connection with a crime.  The recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California highlighted this gap; the rifles in that shooting were allegedly acquired through a straw purchaser.  Firearms trafficking is also an increasingly significant problem in New England, where the surge in opioid abuse has exposed a “guns for drugs” trade.

The bipartisan bill introduced by Leahy and Collins today would make clear that the straw purchasing and trafficking of firearms are federal crimes.

“In Vermont and across the country, we have seen firearms serve as currency for illegal drugs.  Addicts are at times directed to straw purchase firearms by dealers who could not pass a background check themselves,” Senator Leahy said.  “It is time to take action – and only Congress can fill the gaps in our laws.  Congress must not become so numb to tragedy after tragedy that we fail to fulfill our responsibility to legislate.”

“Our bill would provide law enforcement with an effective tool to fight the violence that too often goes hand in hand with drug trafficking,” said Senator Collins. “Straw purchasing and the trafficking of firearms put guns directly in the hands of drug dealers and violent criminals who smuggle heroin into Maine.”

The bill does not affect lawful purchases from federal firearms licensees, nor does it prohibit the innocent transfer of a firearm as a gift, or in relation to a legitimate raffle, auction or contest.  The measure is supported by numerous law enforcement organizations, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Tactical Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

A similar version of the Leahy-Collins legislation drew the support of a bipartisan majority of the Senate in 2013.

Text of the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2016 is available online.  A one-page summary of the bill is also available online. Leahy’s full remarks can be found here.

Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition Call

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Dear Friends,

Time is running out for sentencing reform. As election season heats up, there are only a few months left to help the people, families, and communities affected by excessive and costly prison sentences. This month, thousands of people across the country are making a big push for sentencing reform legislation, before Congress heads home to campaign.

This issue is so important — and so urgent — that the White House will be joining the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition’s national conference call on mass incarceration. I’ll be co-hosting the call with the coalition.

Please join us on Tuesday, February 9 at 5:00 p.m. EST. Register now to participate.

On the call, you’ll hear why the faith voice is so important right now and on this issue. We’ll take your questions and give you ways to get involved.

For the moment, there’s a bipartisan consensus that mandatory minimum sentences must change — but it won’t last for long. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) needs to move forward soon. I hope you’ll join me for this timely call.

Sincerely,

Amelia Kegan
Legislative Director
Domestic Policy

Open Letter in Support of Black Lives Matter

MLK Sunset, photo by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com, Copyright 2016

Open Letter In Support of Black Lives Matter

“Those of us who have grown up with a white identity in America have a particular challenge in that we have been conditioned not to notice the system of racism and white privilege. Our well intentioned attempts at color-blindness can have the unfortunate result of blinding us to the system of racism in which we unwittingly participate.”

Excerpted from the Minute on Racism ~ Approved at New England Yearly Meeting Sessions 2003

Putney Friends Meeting, in solidarity with the “BLACK LIVES MATTER” movement, has erected a sign in front of the Putney Friends Meeting house on Route 5 in Putney, Vermont. What’s important for us is that it’s not just a sign, not just a statement, it’s a commitment to join with others in doing the work we need to do.

“BLACK LIVES MATTER” is a local movement as well as a national movement. Even in Vermont people of color are disproportionately singled out, treated with suspicion and treated as outsiders. When Putney Friends Meeting agreed to put up the sign, we intended it for the whole community. Yes, we do hope that people of color will know our intentions to be in solidarity, to honor their leadership and support their efforts. And Putney Friends Meeting also wants to remind ourselves and others that this means being actively involved in whatever ways we can to make our Quaker Meeting and our community as a whole a part of the change that needs to happen.

Because Vermont is one of the least racially diverse States, we have different challenges than States with more residents of color. This means exploring the opportunities to support and learn from those who are most affected by racism and bias. All Vermonters are affected in a variety of ways. There are programs and activities that help people learn about how racism and white privilege exist everywhere and how everyone is involved. The goal is to become a community that is truly welcoming, open and affirming, where anyone can come and know they are valued and safe.

Putney Friends Meeting looks forward to working with other religious communities, groups and individuals to communicate and share what they are doing, engage in further actions, and challenge each other to do effective organizing.

Contact information:

Carol Forsythe, Clerk~ Putney Friends Meeting

P.O. Box 381, Putney, Vermont 05346

Carol@putneyfriendsmeeting.org

Pearls of wisdom, a response to Trump’s Visit to Vermont

 

Image 1-6-16 at 11.21 AM

Friends,
Below are two items from Joseph Gainza of Vermont Action for Peace concerning possible responses to Trump visiting Vermont this week.  For those that don’t know, Joseph was the VT American Friends Service Committee Program Director for many years.   One suggestion relates to a monetary protest that will support those here in Vermont  being attacked by Trump.   I’ve seen one post pledging 10 cents a minute.  I’m sure we cannot all be so generous, and many of us maybe able to send something.
The other is about what sort of direct action to take.  A totally silent vigil is being suggested. Food for thought for those who feel a need to do something to push back against hate.
In the Light of Love,
Connie Kincaid-Brown
Communications Coordinator
Northwest Quarterly Meeting

Item #1
Friends,
Paul Erlbaum, president of Vermont Action for Peace, has a suggestion I think has merit. What If we each pledge some money for every minute Trump is in Vermont and sent it to Migrant Justice, a great group of migrant farm workers in Vermont organizing for social and economic justice for migrants and immigrants. Trump would love that.
You can send your contribution to Migrant Justice, 294 N. Winooski Ave. Burlington, VT 05401, or donate online at:www.migrantjustice.org.
Item #2
I agree, a peaceful vigil is the best response. It is far more preferable than a “direct action” intended to shut down Trump as I understand some have spoken about. In addition to the First Amendment issues, any disruption of Trump speaking may well play into his hands. Several people have asked why would he come to Vermont. One response has been that Trump wants to tweak Bernie’s nose on his home turf. That may be a factor, but I think it is more likely that he is in Vermont to get the most disruptive response we are capable of giving him. The national press would eat that up and Trump could then point to Vermont as the place where people disregard the First Amendment and break the law to stop “democratic” discourse. He could then say: “See Bernie is from Vermont, Bernie points to Vermont as a model for the rest of the nation, and look how Vermonters behave. Do we want a president who thinks this kind of behavior is OK?” Whether or not you support Bernie’s candidacy, do you want to hand Trump this prize? As the old organizer saying goes: “If you do not have a strategy, you are part of someone else’s strategy.” Let’s not be part of Trumps strategy of using anything to get publicity and, in this case, to score points against Bernie..
A silent vigil makes Trump part of our strategy.
Peace, Joseph
Joseph Gainza
Vermont Action for Peace
Producer & Host – Gathering Peace
WGDR 91.1 FM WGDH 91.7 FM
www.wgdr.org

Friends,

Thank you for this message. You might be interested to know that there are currently over 700 people signed on to some version of silent presence outside the Flynn Theater, starting at 5:00 p.m. in the park. Many of us will wear black or dark clothing with a white paper rose pinned over our hearts.

A few days ago, I started organizing this event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1551016875218954/

In collaboration with two other events with similar missions, it seems we have arrived at a consensus that a silent, compassionate presence rooted in love is our preferred method. I cannot, of course, control the outcome, but it currently seems that there will be at least 700 people gathered silently in the park, to be joined by another 100 walking out from within the theater. We are also to be joined by members of the Vermont Interfaith Action group.

The other two Facebook events are listed here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1523033654658004/
https://www.facebook.com/events/794496294012317/

I cannot tell you how inspired I am that this may in fact come to pass. Thank you, Joseph, for your wise words. You are not alone: their sentiment has taken root, and is shared by many.

In the Light,
Finn Yarbrough
(South Starksboro Meeting)

Global Healing Labyrinth Walk

healing-walk
Global Healing Labyrinth Walk:
Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee
December 29th  Putney Friends Meetinghouse, 7PM
In the wake of the events in Paris, California, Africa, Georgia (the list can go on and on), please consider joining the Native Elders as they create a Global ceremony to end massacre, and all that massacre means, and to heal our hearts.
“ALL OF HUMANITY suffers multi-lineal, multi-generational trauma and carries a grief so deep, so profound, so massive as to bring us to our knees in awe, overwhelm, shock, and pain buried in denial. We have WOUNDED KNEES!  WE HAVE WOUNDED HEARTS! All peoples have suffered for so very long, indeed our Earth is suffering with us!  The choice in clearly dawning — either grow and heal together or perish if we continue alone.   Please join us by gathering at your local sites of massacre, holocaust, places of human grief and suffering, places of worship, or in your own home to perform ceremony with us.”
The Labyrinth Walk in Putney for Healing Hearts will be held at 7PM 
(If you wish to participate at noon like others around the globe, consider downloading and printing this finger labyrinth:  http://globalhealingresponse.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2015WoundedKneeFingerLabyrinth.pdf )
This event is being hosted by Sadelle Wiltshire, who is also a Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator. 
For more information, contact Sadelle at fyddler@gmail.com

Stand with Victims of Gun Violence

We_gather._We_remember._We_honor_with_action.

Stand with Victims of Gun Violence

Saturday, Dec. 19, from 11:00 a.m. to noon

Meet on the sidewalk in front of the Putney Tavern, across from the Putney Diner, Rt.5, Putney, Vermont
 
 This will be a silent vigil, using the Gun Sense banner and poster signs (“Standing with Victims of Gun Violence”). So please, plan on joining us if you can, and help us by spreading the word.