April 21, 2018

Lawmaker withdraws assault weapons ban proposal

Gun rights supporters testify earlier this week against the amendment proposed by Rep. Martin LaLonde, D-South Burlington, far left. File photo by Alan J. Keays/VTDigger

By Alan J. Keays

For VTDigger

The South Burlington lawmaker who last week proposed a dramatic amendment to gun legislation being debated in the House, has backed away from two key provisions of the measure.

Rep. Martin LaLonde, a Democrat, said Friday he will withdraw his proposed ban on assault-style firearms and the establishment of a 10-day waiting period for all gun sales. The move comes a day after gun-rights advocates, in testimony at the Statehouse, slammed both initiatives as well as several others that are still up for debate.

The lawmaker said that in making his proposals he had hoped to gather information and generate discussion. He said he thought he had accomplished that with his proposed assault-style weapons ban, which by Friday proved too difficult a lift.

“I believe I will be able to go back and talk to those constituents and explain that we did look at this very carefully and we couldn’t figure out how to effectively accomplish what people are asking for,” LaLonde said. “I really worked hard how to effectively have that.”

His proposal had called for exempting firearms legally owned before the legislation would go into effect on July 1.

LaLonde said he also would be withdrawing the 10-day waiting period, following a background check, for the transfer of a firearm.

However, he said he is not yet dropping his proposed ban on high-capacity magazines, defined in his amendment as those capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

“High-capacity magazines can lead to incidents that have high lethality,” he said. “That’s why that one is still on the table. There are still things we still need to understand about it.”

LaLonde had proposed his sweeping amendment to S.55, a bill passed last month by the Senate that expands background checks to include private firearms purchases, and increases the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21 in Vermont.

LaLonde is also proceeding with another provision contained in his amendment to the bill that requires the locked storage of firearms.

The House Judiciary Committee took testimony all week on S.55 and LaLonde’s amendment.

The panel took no formal action Friday, but LaLonde, who serves on the committee, told his colleagues that he would no longer be pushing for some parts of his amendment, including the proposed ban of assault-style firearms.

A big part of the problem, the South Burlington legislator said in an interview outside the committee meeting room Friday afternoon, was trying to define an assault-style firearm.

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