Members of the Burlington, Vt. city council have taken the first steps to ban assault rifles in their town, a move causing division among residents less than one month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The council in a 10-3 vote Jan. 7 approved the ban amid the cries of some residents concerned over the loss of some of their Second Amendment rights. The bill must endure further council review before going to the public for a vote. State legislators would also have to weigh in on the bill.
The ban, which was introduced by Councilman Norman Blais, a Democrat, would make it illegal to own semi-automatic weapons and the magazines that accompany them.
Blais told The Burlington Free Press that the legislation is necessary because the city needs tougher measures to protect residents. Blais also cited state gun laws that curb multiple-ammo clips for hunters.
“It seems to me we should have the same common sense in the streets,” Blais told the paper.
“Under the current federal and Vermont laws, a person who is not a convicted felon could be seen by a Burlington police officer walking with a semi- automatic assault weapon and carrying multiple-ammo clips towards one of our public schools, and until that person was actually on school property, that person’s actions would be totally legal and beyond the capacity of the police to intervene,” read the proposal, which requested a change to the Burlington city charter.
“To those people who say we don’t need this legislation in Burlington because nothing like this has ever happened here before, well the people of Newtown, Conn. could have said that before Dec. 15,” Blais said at the meeting, according to Burlington CBS affiliate WCAX.
“I think it’s a dangerous course to let emotions get into the driver’s seat when writing legislation that could potentially infringe on constitutional rights,” resident Matt Storer, who spoke at the meeting, told WCAX.
Other citizens called on city council members to focus more on keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and addressing the underlying issues of gun violence before moving to banning assault rifles for everyone.
“We have come to understand that better mental health programs for children through adult services will be the only way to help our society,” said Morgan Lamphere, another resident.