Tuesday January 15, 2013

BURLINGTON (AP) -- The mayors of three Vermont cities said Monday in conjunction with one-month observances since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that they welcomed debate in the state and across the country about the best way to control gun violence

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger hosted his colleagues from Montpelier and Barre and said the Rutland mayor, who could not attend, supported their position.

"We have a moment where change is possible here," Weinberger said during a news conference at his city's police department.

The mayors voiced support for a movement being pushed by an organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 800 mayors and 1 million grassroots supporters.

The group lists that include requiring every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check, banning military style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

Weinberger and Montpelier Mayor John Hollar said they supported a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines while Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon said he did not support the assault weapons ban, but agreed with other goals of the mayors' organization.

"I am standing here as the mayor who does not support a ban," Lauzon said, but he knew the other mayors would work together to implement other portions of the gun control efforts rather than let the moment escape if they could not agree on that detail.

"I hope that leaders on the statewide and national level take notice of that and let that serve as their example," Lauzon said.

Gun control efforts have never been popular in Vermont or seen by some political leaders as needed.

Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling said at the news conference that gun violence is not epidemic in Vermont like it is in some large cities, but officers are seeing more firearms carried by out-of-state narcotics traffickers coming to Vermont and the city had a record number of armed robberies last year.

"Any gun violence, any use of illegal weapons is intolerable from our perspective, is it at the epidemic levels of Chicago? No," Schirling said.

The news conference coincided with events across the country to commemorate the one-month since the shootings at Connecticut's Sandy Hook elementary school that killed 20 first graders and six educators.