Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed three gun control bills Wednesday, April 11, banning bump stocks, high capacity magazines, and raising the firearms purchasing age to 21. Once a bastion of the Second Amendment – and holder of the title safest state in the Union – Vermont now joins the growing number of states, municipalities, and businesses succumbing to the fear of the gun.
What Happened, Vermont?
The Green Mountain State has resisted the urge to pile on new gun control legislation up until now. Firearm ownership is so ingrained in the culture of rural Vermont that even the Democrats are pro-gun! So, what happened? The February shooting in Parkland happened. And just a couple days later, an 18-year-old was arrested for plotting to shoot up Fair Haven Union High School.
Gov. Scott was shocked and scared into pushing for the gun control laws he signed Wednesday. He signed the bills to the music of gun rights activists calling him a traitor and a one-term governor – a clear indication that he lost more than a few votes this week – and chants of “thank you” from supporters of the bills. Despite the protests, Scott feels he was in the right. “This is not a time to do what’s easy, it’s a time to do what’s right,” he said.
But Was He Right?
Vermont is currently ranked as the second safest state in the Union, with only Maine – another very gun friendly state – having a lower rate of violent crime. Until this year, The Green Mountain State enjoyed the number one spot on that list.
But rather than consider actual crime rates, lawmakers and the governor chose to buy the hype being sold in the wake of the Parkland shooting. And what about the teen who allegedly planned to shoot up a Vermont school? Well, maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. It’s possible that by arresting the young man, authorities saved countless lives at the Fair Haven Union High School. It does seem he has a history of significant mental illness.
However, despite facing charges of aggravated attempted murder, attempted first-degree murder, and attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, 18-year-old Jack Sawyer didn’t actually carry out or even attempt a school shooting.
The information surrounding the Sawyer case is suspicious. It’s entirely possible that he would have eventually carried out the attack, but the details listed as facts in the report don’t seem to make much sense. Sawyer was arrested on suspicion after police were told that he had threatened to shoot up the school. According to the WCAX 3 report, he confessed his plot while in custody:
“Sawyer allegedly told police he planned to take out the school resource officer first and then use an AR-15 and other guns to kill as many students as he could before taking his own life. And he allegedly told police he wasn’t sure when he was going to carry out the plan but he would no matter what.”
But he pleaded not guilty to the charges. Additionally, he has allegedly been talking about shooting up the school for two years – and hasn’t done it yet. Whether or not this young man was ever going to shoot up the school is questionable. Is he a real threat, or was he just shooting off at the mouth? Either way, calling the restricting of more than 620,000 people’s rights over speculations about what one troubled youth might do the right thing is quite a stretch.
Did Scott Shoot Himself – and Vermont – in the Foot?
Vermont enjoys a very low rate of violent crime. Part of that is surely because of how rural the state is. However, a large part of that is likely thanks to the armed populace. Andrew Moran quoted historian Watson Parker in his examination of the so-called wild west: “When everybody has a gun on his hip, they tend to avoid confrontation.”
Will we see an increase in violent crime as Vermont strips away, piece by piece, the uninfringed right to keep and bear arms? What about young adults who might find themselves the victims of violent crime? It happens. Back in 2011, an 18-year-old widowed single mother defended herself with a shotgun in Oklahoma. Had she been unarmed, she and her then-infant might well have died in that home invasion.
And what about Governor Scott’s chances at a second term? Laughable. Mild as the new gun laws are compared to some, the Republican governor won his seat largely due to the support of gun rights supporters. He lost a lot of those votes this week – votes that just might go to a Democrat next term, as crazy as that sounds. Democratic State Senator John Rodgers spoke out against the laws. “It will affect law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to stop evil people and criminals from doing harm to others,” Rodgers said.
How’s that for a Democrat’s opinion? He feels so strongly about it that he’s allegedly considering a run for Governor now.
Sen. Rodgers isn’t the only Vermonter who feels betrayed by their pro-gun governor, and rightly so. The new laws mark the dawn of a new era – one in which Vermont is no longer a bastion of freedom, but just another of many who have sold out the rights of the people in a futile attempt to buy security. Unfortunately, all that is ever received in return is the illusion of security now – and the loss of more freedom later.