February 2, 2013

In Vermont, a gun-law show-and-tell

The Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Historically home to some of the most lax gun laws in the country, Vermont on Friday saw a group of lawmakers propose bills that would restrict high-capacity magazines and step up background checks for buyers.

The debate over gun restrictions is an odd one in Vermont, where residents range widely in their familiarity with guns. Some lawmakers even attended a sort of show-and-tell with the Capitol Police, where Chief Les Dimmick provided firearms from his own collection and others to help acquaint legislators with what they might regulate.

Standing a few feet from a table where police had displayed weapons including a semi-automatic Colt AR-15 and a pair of hunting rifles, Rep. Suzi Wizowaty readily volunteered that she is not a gun person.

"Guns scare me. I would never want to have a gun in my own home," the Burlington Democrat said.

But as a member of the Judiciary Committee of the Vermont House, Wizowaty finds herself at the center of a debate already occurring in many places around the country and just coming to Vermont.

Among the proposals introduced Friday are bills that would extend background checks to purchases at gun shows and have state law match the federal ban on felons possessing firearms. Another provision would have the state Department of Mental Health share information with the federal background check system.

Lawmakers agreed it's too early to say what shape legislation might take.

The push for legislation follows a spate of mass shootings around the country in recent years, including the massacre of 20 first-graders and six school staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.


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