Rally shows support for gun restrictionsMark Collier / Staff Photo
About 300 people turned out Saturday at the Statehouse in Montpelier to oppose assault weapons and support gun controls.
MONTPELIER — Hundreds of people flocked to the Statehouse on Saturday for a rally to support gun-control legislation on both the federal and state levels.
The rally was organized by Montpelier resident Danielle LaFleur Brooks, who said she was happy with how the day turned out.
Brooks was inspired to form the rally in response to a rally held last month when around 250 people showed up to oppose Sen. Phil Baruth’s proposed legislation banning military-style assault weapons.
Brooks’ rally, attended by about 300, was also in response to Baruth’s decision to pull his bill less than 24 hours later.
“I was so upset that the state wasn’t even going to have the conversation about assault weapons and what part that might play with gun violence,” she said.
Brooks is the mother of a 5-year-old and a 9-month-old. She said the events last fall in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed, including 20 young children, really struck a chord with her.
“As a mother, when I heard about what was happening in Sandy Hook, Conn., my 5-year-old is in kindergarten and I felt she could have been in that hallway,” she said.
Brooks said there were parents like her who might not have time to pay attention to politics, but would do anything to protect their children. The rally Saturday was a way to give those parents a voice, she said.
Besides being a parent, Brooks is a former English teacher. She said one of her students was shot and killed over a racial dispute.
After the rally, a principal approached her and talked about how he has also had students gunned down at his school.
Brooks said the rally was also intended to show support for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed federal ban on assault weapons, as well as for state legislation introduced by Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson, D-Essex.
The Vermont legislation would, among other things, limit the number of rounds in ammunition clips, require background checks at gun shows, and require that guns are stored safely and kept out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have access to them, including children.
Former Montpelier city councilor Nancy Sherman attended the rally because she also supports such legislation. She said gun control is the second-most important issue facing the country behind the economy.
Montpelier Mayor John Hollar was invited to speak at the rally. He said he attended because gun control is something he feels strongly about and he is one of 800 mayors from around the country who have formed a coalition looking for positive solutions to end gun violence.
“Assault weapons are designed to essentially kill large numbers of people in a short period of time,” Hollar told the crowd.
“We know from horrifying experiences in Newtown, Oak Creek, Tucson, Aurora and other places that they do the job very well,” he added. “Nearly one-third of the high-profile shootings during the last four years involved assault weapons.”
Hollar said a civilized society does not allow weapons to be sold that are designed for large-scale killing, distinguishes between guns that have a legitimate use and those used for warfare, and protects its children.
“The Second Amendment really has no place in this discussion,” he said. “It has never been construed to protect private ownership of military weapons. Even as the Supreme Court has upheld gun ownership for self defense, the Second Amendment does not uphold the right to own dangerous and unusual weapons.”
Hollar encouraged the crowd to implore legislators to “have a reasoned and thoughtful debate about whether assault weapons have a place in our community.”
eric.blaisdell @timesargus.comMORE IN Central Vermont
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