3 years ago: Few lawmakers felt comfortable talking about gun laws
“This is a sea change,” said Senator Phil Baruth.
One speaker after another. Senator Sirotkin, Matt Dunne, Sue Minter, Peter Galbraith, Kesha Ram, David Zuckerman, Senate President Pro-Tem John Campbell, Senator McCormack, Amy Brady of Voice for Vermont’s Children, and Clai Sommers, a powerful survivor. It was inspiring. And surreal.
This is a key turning point, but more work is needed. Tuesday’s primary will launch the final push to election day, and we need our volunteer teams ready to dive in and support candidates who support background checks. Many people signed up for their local teams at last night’s rally, but we need even more people to sign up if our teams are going to be strong enough.
You can read more about the rally in the Burlington Free Press, in Seven Days, or in VTDigger. Thank you for all of you who came out and beared the hot sun! I bet you all left there like I did: dehydrated, but reinvigorated!
This is the time! This is our chance! Let’s make this happen!
President, Gun Sense Vermont
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.
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.
First of all, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who made it out to our celebration this past weekend. It was fabulous to see everyone, celebrate our accomplishments and look forward to our next steps as a growing and influential grassroots movement for commonsense gun laws in Vermont.While our work has primarily been focused on Vermont-based policies, I am also writing to bring your attention to something that is happening in the US Senate right now.
Recently, the House of Representatives approved their version of their CJS Appropriations Act for FY2016 (H.R. 2578). In the process, 11 so-called “gun riders” were added to their bill, and today, the Senate Appropriations Committee is taking up this piece of legislation.
If approved, the riders would:
These gun-related riders have been added to the House legislation without open debate. Unless the Senate hears from you, these dangerous provisions will make it into the final version of the law, threatening community safety, here and around the country. We need to make it easier, not harder, for the ATF to do its job!
Our colleagues at the Center for American Progress and the States United to Prevent Gun Violence have made it easy for GunSenseVT supporters to speak up on this issue — particularly since Senator Leahy is a key member on the Appropriations Committee that is considering this bill. Simply contact Senator Leahy using this form and ask him NOT to include these bad gun riders in their CJS bill. These riders will only benefit criminals while tying the hands of law enforcement trying to reduce gun violence.
Thanks for taking a minute to speak out on this important subject. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful early summer weather!
|GunSenseVT · PO Box 2533, Brattleboro, VT 05303, United States|
It is especially important that your Senators hear that you support s.141. Their vote is particlularly important in ensuring the success of this bill which will most likely be voted on tomorrow. The opposition is making calls and we need to do the same today.
It is a very easy process. Simply call the Sargeant at Arms and tell them your town and county and that you support s. 141. The number is (802)-828-2228 or 1-800-322-5616.
If you can send me an email that you have made the call that would be wonderful. firstname.lastname@example.org
Elissa Bhanti, GunSenseVT
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to tell you that the Senate Judiciary Committee PASSED a gun violence prevention bill out of committee BY A UNANIMOUS VOTE IN SUPPORT!
Gun violence prevention has been untouchable at the statehouse for decades, and this is proof that times have changed. It has been your grassroots action that has gotten this issue on the table, and now it is moving forward despite opposition from the gun lobby. This is HISTORIC!!
Please e-mail the Senate Judiciary Committee members to thank them for taking this issue seriously!
Senator Sears – email@example.com
Senator Nitka – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Benning – email@example.com
Senator White – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Ashe – email@example.com
We have such incredible momentum coming out of this committee vote, and it’s up to us to make sure we keep moving forward. The bill will get a number next week (it’s not called S. 31), and the debate and floor vote could happen as early as Thursday or else the following week. We’ll need to have supportive calls flooding into the statehouse for that, and since the gun lobby will likely do another robo-call to generate activity, we need to do the grassroots equivalent: a massive phone tree to call other supporters asking them to call their senators. To prepare for this, folks are coming together at locations all across the state this weekend to start making phone calls. If you haven’t yet signed up to help, contact Elissa, and she’ll put you in touch with the phone bank organizer in your area.
Our voices are making a huge difference, and we must continue to ensure that the call for common sense comes through loud and clear.
Together we are DOING this!!
P.S. Here is the first news report out about the bill, and I’m sure others will be coming out shortly.
If you didn’t see the Governor’s comments on the news last night, this clip is worth watching. From WCAX: He says voters sent him a message to act on property taxes and education costs, not gun laws or picking the state dog and vegetable. ‘I just don’t know very many Vermonters who come up to me and say, ‘You know governor, all of my problems are because Vermont’s gun laws aren’t serving us well.’ It’s not something I’m getting; so let’s focus on the things Vermonters asked us to get done.”
The phone number at the Governor’s office is (802) 828-3333. Let’s let Governor Shumlin know that those 12,000 petition signatures we delivered two weeks ago were actual Vermonters asking him to take action on this issue!
And thank you to all of you who stepped up to share yesterday’s fact in support of criminal background checks. Lawmakers are appreciative of your efforts and saying “Please encourage more to write,” — and given the rhetoric used at last night anti-criminal background check rally it’s essential that we keep making our voices heard!
Today’s Fact of the Day:
In 2013 in Vermont, abuse victims seeking help made 24,000 calls to the state domestic violence crisis hotline — an increase of 138% over the previous two years.
Source: State of Vermont, Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission Report, 2014,
On behalf of these families we can’t afford to ignore our domestic violence problem and allow abusers to have easy access to guns. Please share this fact with your lawmakers right now. (Direct links to lawmaker e-mail addresses are below.)
Please drop us a quick e-mail letting us know that you’ve reached out to your lawmakers.
P.P.S. Here are the basic steps for sharing the fact of the day with your lawmakers.
1) Highlight the fact of the day, and use the right-click button to copy it.
2) Click on the e-mail address of one of your lawmakers and right-click inside the e-mail body to paste it.
3) Add a personal message from you for your lawmaker.
4) Highlight your full e-mail text before you send it, and right-click to copy it. Then press send.
5) Click on each of your other lawmakers’ e-mail addresses and right-click to paste your e-mail text into the box that pops up. Send each one as you go.
P.P.P.S. Here are direct links to each of the lawmakers’ e-mail addresses. If you’re not sure what district you’re in, you can use the statehouse website to search for your lawmakers based on the town where you live.
I’m thrilled to announce that S. 31 has been officially introduced in the Senate. That means that it’s crucial that right now we all send a quick, personal e-mail to our lawmakers letting them know that we support it. (Senators’ and representatives’ e-mails are here.) This bill has three key parts, like three legs of a stool that work together to help keep guns out of the wrong hands:
- Criminal background checks on unlicensed sales of firearms
- A state law prohibiting violent felons from possessing guns (this would give local law enforcement the authority to prosecute violations)
- The timely submission of relevant court records to the National Instant Background Check System when a person has been adjudicated as being a danger to themself or others
If you’re interested in reading the bill in its entirely, you can see it here.
It is a huge accomplishment to have gotten this far, and looking ahead our work is cut out for us. While there area number of lawmakers who are fully supportive of this bill, there are many who are:
It’s up to US to help lawmakers see that this bill is necessary to help address our domestic violence problem and prevent other dangerous individuals from having easy access AND that their constituents support it!
This will require us all to make a commitment to reach out to our lawmakers on an ongoing basis. If they hear our polite and persistent collective voices day after day, democracy will work the way it should, and a bill that has 81% of Vermonters in support will get passed.
The First Step: E-mail your lawmakers right now to show your support of S. 31 and encourage them to watch our new ad that highlights gun owners standing up for background checks.
To help you do this:
- You can quickly find your senators and representatives’ e-mail addresses here.
- The link for the video to include in your e-mail is here: http://www.gunsensevt.org/gun_owners_for_background_checks
- Please also drop us a quick e-mail to let us know when you’ve done it, so we can keep a tally.
The Next Step: On Monday we’re going to begin a two-week Fact-of-the-Day campaign in which we’ll focus on one key fact each day to underscore why this legislation is necessary. We’ll send you a quick e-mail in the morning with the daily fact, and then all you need to do is turn around and e-mail it to your lawmakers. The fact itself will be powerful, but it will be even more powerful coming from a constituent.
Quick, personal e-mails only take a few minutes each day, but they could EASILY be the determining factor that will make this bill successful.
You have the power to make the difference!
Together we can do this!
P.S. The daily fact e-mails are designed to make it easy for you to stay informed and speak up. However, if you don’t want to receive these emails and do want to continue to receive general GunSenseVT emails, please just e-mail us, and we’ll remove you from this specific list. Thanks!
Putney Friends Meeting Minute 2014.03.01; Minute on the Prevention of Gun Violence.
Live in “the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion for all wars.”
George Fox (1624- 1691)
This applies to all violence including gun violence. Violence is a reflection of the ills of society. We challenge ourselves and others to look at the depth of this issue so we can address the heart of the matter.
Ann Braden from GunSense VT joined a group of Friends/friends at Putney Friends Meeting on January 18th to share the story of her work in founding this organization. Below is a link to a video explaining what they are trying to accomplish here in Vermont.
Please feel free to share this…