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Burlington City Council passes gun violence resolution

The Burlington City Council on Monday night unanimously approved a resolution seeking to prevent gun violence, calling it a “public health crisis.”

But because Vermont municipalities are restricted from enacting their own gun restrictions, a significant portion of the four-page resolution is devoted to urging state action to repeal that restriction.

The resolution calls on the Legislature to scrap the so-called “Sportsman’s Bill of Rights,” which prevents municipalities from regulating guns. That state law has hindered the passage of three Burlington charter changes approved by voters in 2014. The resolution also seeks final state approval of those proposals.

The charter changes proposed in 2014 would ban guns from establishments with liquor licenses, allow police to seize guns after incidents of domestic abuse and require all guns to be locked while not in use.

“While the Vermont Legislature has taken steps in recent years to adopt more sensible gun violence prevention policies, including the enactment of new ordinances that better allow for the seizure of firearms after domestic abuse incidents, the Legislature has not acted on still-pending charter changes overwhelmingly approved by Burlington voters,” the council’s resolution reads.

A third item directed toward the Statehouse asks Vermont to join other states in preventing those convicted of hate crimes from owning guns.

Another part of the resolution calls on Mayor Miro Weinberger’s office to determine whether “City Hall, Church Street Marketplace, and other Burlington landmarks may be designated as a ‘park’ where firearm possession would be prohibited.”

The final recommendation tasks Weinberger and the Burlington Police Department with reviewing whether the city could establish and maintain a facility for the storage of firearms on behalf of people “during moments of crisis.”

Weinberger voiced his support for the resolution on Monday and recalled his role in drafting the 2014 charter changes.

“I would be equally happy, maybe even happier, if the Legislature took alternative action which would be instead of giving Burlington the sole authority to put these safe storage and prohibition for guns in bars and restaurants, they could take that action on a statewide basis, as well,” he said. “And in some ways, I think that's a more likely path to achieving this.”

While the resolution does call for legislative action, Joe Magee, P-Ward 3, said that both at the local and state level, more should be done and that people shouldn’t “enforce our way out of this problem.”

“We must do the hard and crucial work to address the root causes of violence to create lasting change and/or interrupt the cycle of harm,” Magee said.

Portions of the resolution echo language developed by GunSense Vermont, a gun control advocacy group that has sought to pressure the Legislature to repeal the Sportsman’s Bill of Rights through municipal resolutions similar to Burlington’s version.

In October, the Woodstock Village Trustees passed a resolution calling for a repeal of the state law.

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