Gun owners rally at Statehouse

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Gun rights advocates Sunday gathered on the Statehouse steps for a three-hour rally to oppose votes the Legislature could take in the next two months about guns.

The protesters wore blaze orange hats, held signs, waved "Don’t tread on me" flags and cheered for speakers who called on lawmakers to preserve Vermont’s gun laws, which are regarded among the most lenient in the nation.

Organizers said approximately 700 individuals attended, based on the number of raffle tickets handed out. About 200 were on the steps at 2 p.m.

Gun owners at the rally said protecting their right to bear arms is about more than hunting.

The advocates gathered to protest two gun-related measures that could come up for a vote before the legislative session ends in May.

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The first is a possible change to the Burlington city charter. Voters there last week approved three measures that would tighten gun ordinances.

Lawmakers typically quickly rubber-stamp municipal charter changes, but in this case, legislators have said they may delay approval of the Burlington ordinances until next session.

The activists also demonstrated against a measure designed to create better storage facilities for firearms surrendered by people subject to relief from abuse orders.

A broad fee bill, H. 735, contains a provision that would allow sheriffs to create guidelines and charge a fee to store surrendered guns. The bill also authorizes federally licensed firearms dealers to hold the guns.

The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, said it initially supported the measure but now is unsatisfied with the current version of the bill, which has passed the House floor and is before the Senate Finance Committee.

Gun Owners of Vermont opposes the bill altogether.


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