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Letter to the editor: New gun laws run contrary to Vermont Constitution

The controversy surrounding S.55, S.221 and H.422 (now enacted into law) is lacking in proper context.
The Vermont Constitution clearly states: Chapter 1, Article 16  “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves;” Chapter 2 § 6, The Legislature “shall have no power to add to, alter, abolish, or infringe any part of this Constitution;” and Chapter 2 § 16, Representatives’ Oaths, “You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as a member of this Assembly, you will not propose, or assent to, any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to you injurious to the people, nor do nor consent to any act or thing whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State.”
This is not a debate about whether these laws are “going to make anyone safer” or about specifically violating “rights protected by the Second Amendment”.
This is a debate about whether or not these laws violate the Vermont Constitution, and whether or not our legislators have violated their oaths of office in pursuit of laws that clearly “have a tendency to lessen or abridge” the “rights and privilege” of the people to “bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State”.
In my opinion, several parts of these laws are repugnant to the Vermont Constitution and our governor and legislators who supported the passage of these laws are in clear violation of their oaths. To demonstrate my point, I ask: Would limiting the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press (see Article 13 of the Vermont Constitution) of those under 21 be acceptable? Would limiting that right to 300 words or less be acceptable? Clearly not! So how is limiting the right to bear arms of those under 21 or limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds for long rifles and 15 rounds for handguns acceptable?
At its core, a constitution is a contract between the people and the government. If we permit willful infringement of the Vermont Constitution, regardless of the motivation, we invite tyranny.
Leon H. Smith
Middlebury

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