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    Posted February 4, 2013 by
    Montpelier, Vermont
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Gun control debate: Background checks

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    Vermont takes lead in firearms reform


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     collierphoto is a photographer for the Times Argus/Rutland Herald in Vermont. Though regarded as liberal on social issues, Vermont has a strong firearms culture combined with one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the U.S. and currently the least restrictive gun control laws in the U.S., the iReporter says.
    - dsashin, CNN iReport producer

    Even as Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy takes a leadership role in the national debate about firearms, another Vermonter, State Representative Linda Waite-Simpson has stepped up to provide sensible solutions at the state level to the problem of gun violence that support the second amendment rights of her constituents and fellow Vermonters.


    Waite-Simpson introduced her proposed bill, H.124 at a Friday February 1st news conference at the Statehouse in Montpelier. Flanked by supporters from the medical community, law enforcement community and several of her fellow lawmakers, Waite-Simpson made the case for reforming firearms regulations currently on the books in the green mountain state.


    “This is really about enforcing what we have right now,” said the Vermont democrat. She emphasized training and education as one of the best tools for combating accidents and violence involving firearms. “If we can’t do that, it doesn’t make sense to start adding laws.”


    As introduced, the bill would make the following changes to Vermont law:

    • The measure would ban the sale or possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.


    • The measure would require instant background checks for all firearms purchased at gun shows in Vermont.


    • Mandate the Vermont Department of Mental Health to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. That's something the state currently does not do.


    • Provide local and state law enforcement with the authority to enforce federal restrictions on who can and can not legally possess firearms. Currently Vermont has no statutes on the books matching the restrictions outlined in federal law that prohibits firearm possession by convicted felons, perpetrators of domestic violence, persons covered by relief from abuse orders. mental health patients who have been found incompetent, dishonorably discharged members of the military and illegal users of prescription medications and other drugs, such as Marijuana who are currently prohibited by federal law from owning or possessing firearms. State police and local police departments in Vermont cannot enforce these restrictions under current Vermont law without the active involvement of Federal Law Enforcement.


    • Require a firearms training/safety course for individuals choosing to carry a concealed weapon.


    • End the prohibition on firearm suppressors. Vermont is currently 1 of only 7 states across the country that ban the possession of these devices. Waite-Simpson calls the suppressor an important safety feature that protects the hearing and eyes of persons using a firearm and those nearby.


    Waite-Simpson has taken a lot of heat from groups like National Rifle Association for her efforts to pass what even some of Vermont’s ardent 2nd amendment advocates describe as reasonable well thought out legislation that, while still "needing some work", is heading in the right direction. Despite growing support for Waite-Simpson’s proposed legislation from Vermont’s firearms community, she still faces what she calls “an uphill battle” to bring change to the state where the loosest firearms regulations in the country converge with one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the US and the lowest rate of gun and violent crime in the nation. Her opponents are quick to point out with statewide gun ownership estimated to be between 45% and 50%, the highest in New England and one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, Waite-Simpson’s proposed legislation is anything but a sure bet.



    Image 1: At the heart of the debate about gun control in the United States, is the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle which fires a small bullet at very high velocity.


    Image 2: A civilian version of the popular M-16/M-4 rifle carried by the US military with ammunition and a 30 round magazine.


    Image 3: Vermont State Representative Linda Waite-Simpson (D) speaks with the media during a Friday, February 1st news conference at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier, Vermont.


    Image 4: 2nd amendment advocates in Vermont gather for a January 19th protest against gun control legislation proposed by Vt. State Senator Philip Baruth.


    Image 5: A smith and Wesson 9mm handgun with 9mm ammunition.


    Image 6: Right, Winnoski Vermont Police Chief Steve McQueen and left, Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark listen on as Adam Gershwin (D) explains his support for Waite-Simpson’s proposed legislation, H.124


    Image 7: Vermont Representative Adam Gershwin (D) speaks with the media about his support for Waite-Simpson’s proposed bill.


    Image 8: Vermont lawmakers gather for a show and tell session where those unfamiliar with firearms were given an opportunity to see the weapons being debated for themselves.


    Image 9: Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives’, Shap Smith (D) Morrisville is the gate keeper for new legislation. While Smith has not signed on to support H.124, he is not opposing the legislation moving forward.

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