By Guy Page
Burlington city officials want tougher gun laws and more police spending to reduce the outbreak of Queen City gun violence.
A small number of local gang members are responsible for the big uptick in Burlington shootings, Chief Jon Murad said at a press conference at Burlington Police Department headquarters Thursday afternoon.
Of the 38 gunfire incidents since 2020, 18 have been arrested. Almost all of the arrestees have been jailed without bail pending trial, he said.
"Drug trafficking is not a significant factor in the gunfire," Murad said. "Neither are the local gangs affiliated with national gangs, such as the Crips and the Bloods. The shooters are generally longtime Burlingtonians, not people who reside outside of Vermont, as is occurring elsewhere in the state."
Chief Murad said he doesn’t know how many of the arrestees have criminal records that would prevent them, under existing gun control laws, from legally owning guns.
Mayor Weinberger will present a proposal to reduce gun violence to the City Council. Among other measures, he will seek more funding to expand the current number of police officers.
Progressive City Councilors and Murad have discussed the crime problem at a community gathering, Murad said.
What Burlington won’t be doing is imposing municipal gun control. “We’ve tried that and it hasn’t gone anywhere,” Weinberger said. A proposed city charter change went nowhere with the Legislature, he said. He hopes Montpelier and Washington enhance existing gun laws.
State’s Attorney Sarah George said “we do need to realize the perfect storm” that’s led to the shooting increase includes the pandemic, economic strain, increase in poverty, record years for gun purchases, and erosion of trust and confidence in criminal justice system, especially among minority. She did cite the reduction in police staffing.