February 23, 2020

Guest Column: Scott’s nomination changes gun control narrative

By Clai Lasher-Sommers

Gov. Phil Scott’s victory in the recent Republican party primary shows that the vast majority of Vermonters — including those in the Republican party — are supportive of his courageous actions to pass gun safety measures. Scott’s win sends a clear message, and politicians and political pundits nationwide should pay attention: Republicans can stand for common sense gun measures and be supported for their efforts at the ballot box. Gun violence prevention is a bipartisan issue with bipartisan support.

It is no secret that Vermonters back common sense gun measures. Poll after poll show widespread support for gun violence prevention. The most recent public poll released by Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS shows that 67 percent of Vermonters support the gun safety measures passed this year. These measures include, but are not limited to, expanded background checks, a limit on magazine capacity and a ban on bump stocks. Yet despite this overwhelming data, politicians and political pundits have continued to insist that gun safety is politics’ third rail. “Vote for gun safety and you will be voted out,” was a phrase repeated ad nauseum.

This theory has of course been perpetuated by the corporate gun lobby. The gun lobby has a long and sordid history of putting profits above safety. It suits their interests for politicians to believe that they can’t even pass common sense measures to make their constituents safer without risking their political futures.

They say Vermont is safe, and there is no need for gun safety laws — ignoring the facts. The fact that even in Vermont we came perilously close to a school massacre. The fact that even in Vermont, half of our murders are domestic violence-related, and guns are used in more than half of those killings. The fact that even in Vermont suicide is the eighth leading cause of death, and firearms in the home significantly increase the risk that somebody will take their life.

Well, no more. The governor’s decisive win in the Republican primary debunks the theory that if you support gun safety you will pay politically. Vermonters, like most Americans, have had enough. Enough of the senseless slaughter of our children when they go to school. Enough of the domestic violence that all too often ends in a woman’s death. Enough of the suicides that are taking our loved ones from us at alarming rates.

Times have changed. It is time for a new theory. Vermonters want common sense gun safety measures in place. They want guns kept out of the hands of dangerous people. They want our state, our communities, our homes and our schools to be safer. They want the American gun violence epidemic to end. Those politicians who do not support gun safety out of fear of political retribution should pay attention.

Clai Lasher-Sommers is the executive director of GunSense Vermont.

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