Vermont Officials Respond to Las Vegas Mass Shooting

Representative Peter Welch of Vermont (D).

Toby Talbot/Associated Press

Representative Peter Welch of Vermont (D).


MIDDLEBURY — Gun control in Vermont has always existed as an anomaly of legislation in comparison to the state’s otherwise progressive stance. During the 2016 presidential election, in a survey by The New York Times, Vermont was the only state where the majority of gun owners voted for the Democratic candidate. Indeed, the confluence of a rural landscape and progressive ideals has led state politicians to hold a distinctively centrist position when it comes to gun reform.

The mass shooting at the country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 has again ignited the debate around gun control in Vermont. A Vermont native, 35-year-old Sandra Casey of Dorset, was among the 58 victims killed in Las Vegas. In Washington, lawmakers are focusing on a deadly gun accessory known as the bump stock, which was used in the Las Vegas massacre. And once again, the Vermont legislature has taken up the thorny issue of the state’s gun laws.

Unknown to many at the college, students are allowed to bring their own personal firearms onto campus. Students need to register their guns with the Department of Public Safety, where they are kept under lock and key. But students can check out their weapons for hunting and other related activities whenever they wish.

Vermont law does not require a permit for shotguns, handguns or rifles, and therefore there are no additional proofs of permit required by Public Safety to keep a firearm of this nature on campus. Similar to the dualism present in the state, Middlebury’s crunchy campus also has a group of students who value having access to their firearms while at school.

“There are a small number of students, fewer than, 20, who store a weapon to participate in hunting or related activities,” Dan Gaiotti, associate director of Public Safety, said. According to article C.6. in the College Handbook, weapons are prohibited on campus. However, students are allowed to check out their guns from Public Safety for the activities listed above.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has engaged in the debate surrounding gun control before, often taking an uncharacteristically conservative stance. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he argued in a statement, “If you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen.”

The difference in the Las Vegas shooting is a firearm accessory that has become a flashpoint in the debate on Capitol Hill over the last few weeks. The “fire bump stock,” or bump stock, is an add-on for semi-automatic weapons to enable them to more closely resemble a fully automatic firearm. A dozen were found in the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter.

Both Republican and Democratic Congressmen have proposed bills that would ban the production and distribution of bump stocks. Although the National Rifle Association initially backed such a ban, the organization announced on Oct. 13 that it did not support the proposed bills. The N.R.A. cited ripple effect on other firearm accessories for its about-face on a bump stock ban. The group also said it hoped that bump stocks could be addressed through regulation, instead of law, by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Although the partisan divide remains, both sides are narrowing in on necessary reform. At a news conference on Oct. 4, Sanders stressed the need for immediate gun reform. “While it is too late for the victims in Las Vegas, and the victims in Newtown, and the victims in Charleston, and the other terrible shootings we have seen, it is not too late to prevent the next set of innocent Americans from becoming victims,” he said.

In contrast to other shootings, the emergence of the bump stock with the Las Vegas massacres has given representatives a tangible point of reform. The ATF does not see things as clearly. Bump stocks were approved by the agency prior to the mass shooting, and now legislators are scrambling to figure out how and why.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has asked the ATF to provide an explanation for the allowance of bump stocks. During a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, Ryan called for a regulatory regulation of the automatic accessories, as opposed to a legislative one, enraging Representatives who believe a vote should be brought to the House.

“That’s really just a way of saying they don’t want to stand up and be counted on the question of whether bump stocks should be illegal,” Vermont Rep. Peter Welch (D) said in an interview for Vermont Public Radio. “And it mystifies me, really, because fully automatic weapons are appropriate in combat, [but] they’re illegal in civilian life, they’re illegal.”

The waning fervor surrounding gun reform, only weeks after Las Vegas’s mass shooting, has prompted states to take the debate of bump stocks upon themselves. Last Thursday, the state Senate in Massachusetts voted 33–0 to ban the sale and possession of bump stocks and other accessories that allow firearms to mimic the rapidity of automatic weapons. A day earlier, the Massachusetts House approved the bump stock ban 151–3, leaving the bill ready for the signature of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. He had already agreed to approve the ban if it passed both the House and Senate.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has joined forces with Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders to back comprehensive federal gun reform in the aftermath of Las Vegas. But at this point, it is unclear whether the elected officials will follow the sovereign route forged by Massachusetts, or will continue pressing Rep. Ryan in the House to allow a vote on the matter.

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About the Writer
AMELIA POLLARD, Digital Director

Amelia Pollard '20.5 is the digital director.

She previously served as senior local editor, local editor, and staff writer.

Pollard is majoring in...


2 Responses to “Vermont Officials Respond to Las Vegas Mass Shooting”

  1. Bob Smitton on October 19th, 2017 4:59 pm

    The bump stock is nothing new and bump firing has been around for a long long time now. You do not need a stock to bump-fire however such a stock does make the practice far more safe for both the user and all those around them so the question is ultimately, if you are seriously not trying to take the guns and your real concern is in fact safety, then why in the world would you be targeting a firearm SAFETY device! The answer is simple. It is one or both, that you do in fact want to ban firearms and this is that small step toward that end you were lusting for or you have no idea what you are even talking about but want to feel special because you did something that amounts to nothing but harming your fellow citizens. Either way it is dangerous to freedom and an affront to the Constitution and the sworn oath each elected official has taken. We will remember who supports this anti-human rights agenda come election day and that does not matter if it is on the state or national level. You support this garbage, you will be replaced, period. If you want Fascichusetts then move there and leave what clearly works, alone!

  2. Greg Demars on October 21st, 2017 8:03 am

    Here’s a novel idea. Why don’t we institute a law that revokes the public driving privilege for everyone the next time any one person uses a car, truck or RV to kill other people either deliberately, by accident or due to mental impairment. Add to that the legal inability to take any action that might save yourself from bodily harm the moment that something or someone threatens to end your life. Either or both will serve the same purpose. Once all potential victims are eliminated the world will have become peaceful and forever safe.

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Vermont Officials Respond to Las Vegas Mass Shooting