Clai Lasher-Sommers: Vermont must take the lead on gun safety

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Another series of mass shootings — this time in Dayton, El Paso, Mobile, and Odessa — ushered in the expected "thoughts and prayers" from elected officials across the nation. Forty people were killed and 73 more were injured over the span of just a few weeks in those four shootings alone. The usual, performative hand-wringing began, and quickly subsided. Gun violence prevention was discussed only as far as it was politically expedient and not a second longer.

Once again, we are burying the dead, nursing the wounded, and trying to comfort the living. Once again we are fully equipped with the solution, yet held hostage by the gun lobby. What is abundantly clear is that we cannot expect leadership from Washington to tackle the issue of gun violence.

Thankfully though, Vermont leaders have, at times, shown a willingness to stand up to the corporate gun lobby. 2018 saw a suite of commonsense gun violence prevention measures passed through the legislature and signed by our governor.

In contrast, this past year was an incredible disappointment as Gov. Scott suddenly fell back in line with the corporate gun lobby, vetoing a waiting period bill that the data shows would save lives. I know the governor values the lives of Vermonters. My hope is that he will come back in 2020 ready to buck the gun lobby and do right by his constituents. The legislature has shown great tenacity and I applaud their outspoken commitment to passing gun violence reforms when they return to the state house in January. Hopefully this time the governor will do the right thing: sign gun safety legislation and save lives.

Passing a 72-hour waiting period to purchase any gun and closing the Charleston Loophole are two meaningful steps that Vermont legislators should take when they return to the state house in January that would make our state and country a safer place. While many are no doubt familiar with the concept of waiting periods, the Charleston Loophole remains relatively obscure. Under current law, people who buy a gun from a licensed dealer have to go through a background check. The FBI has up to three days to complete this check. But if it doesn't complete the check during this time period, gun dealers are allowed to sell the firearm anyway. This loophole allowed a white supremacist to purchase the gun he used to kill nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

We all know what we have to do, but to do it our leaders must show courage and listen to the majority of Vermonters rather than the gun lobby. Because the majority of Vermonters want gun safety legislation. Poll after poll backs this up.

Vermonters, like Americans everywhere, have had enough. Enough of the fear, the bloodshed, the dead, the wounded, and the excuses. We want our children, our family and our neighbors to live without fear of being shot. We want to continue the great tradition Vermont has of leading the country, of being brave in the face of adversity, and of choosing our people over special interests.

Clai Lasher-Sommers is executive director of GunSense Vermont.

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