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Guns & Schools: ACSD board urges lawmakers to act on gun control

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Posted on February 22, 2018 |
By John Flowers



Anti-gun rally Mplr quartet-3892.jpg
ADDISON COUNTY RESIDENTS Lily Isham (Cornwall), left, Julian Roy (Middlebury), Griffin Louer (New Haven) and Alison Seaton (Weybridge) joined around 200 people at a rally at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier on Tuesday to lobby for stronger gun safety laws. After the rally, participants — many of whom were high school students — took the opportunity to talk with lawmakers about the need for stricter gun laws in light of the school shooting in Florida and the alleged mass shooting planned for Fair Haven Union High School. Photo courtesy of Michael Roy

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Central School District board on Monday endorsed a resolution urging legislative leaders to pass “common-sense gun violence prevention legislation” during the 2018 legislative session, and for Gov. Phil Scott to promptly sign that legislation into law.

Board members fielded the resolution in wake of the fatal shooting on Feb. 14 of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the arrest of a Poultney, Vt., teen charged last Friday with attempted murder in connection with the threat of a mass shooting at Fair Haven Union High School (see related story on this page).

ACSD board members Mary Gill, Ruth Hardy and Jason Duquette-Hoffman were prominent supporters of the resolution, sent to Scott, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe. The resolution was also copied to members of Addison County’s legislative delegation.

A complete version of the resolution can be found at addisonindependent.com. It notes the increasing amount of time students are having to spending in lockdown and “active shooter” drills and security-related expenses aimed at protecting schools from “military-style attacks.”

“Students have the right to attend school free from the fear of death or injury as a result of gun-related violence,” the resolution reads.

The document also notes the responsibility of elected officials to ensure “the education, health and safety of students on behalf of parents and our community.”

Addison Central officials urged “careful consideration” of four bills before the House or Senate: S.6, universal background checks; H.422, removing guns from the scene of domestic violence; S.221, removing guns when a person shows signs of threat and danger; and H. 876, prohibiting bump-fire stocks for firearms.

The resolution also urges the drafting and passage of bills — proposed in previous legislative sessions — that would prevent the possession, sale or manufacture of military-style assault weapons.

“Such weapons are commonly used in mass shootings at schools resulting in tragic and widespread devastation and death,” the resolution states.

“It is long past time when inaction is ethically or morally acceptable,” reads the resolution. “We need you to help us keep our students and schools safe from gun-related violence.”

Hardy offered her personal thoughts on the resolution.

“As a mother and a school board member, I felt compelled to speak up and I’m heartened that the majority of my school board colleagues did too,” she said. “It seems only a matter of time until a Vermont community may have to deal with the tragedy of a school shooting. We all have to work together to keep our students, teachers, and schools safe from such violence. Our state officials should pass common-sense gun-related violence prevention measures immediately. Students around the country are demanding action, the grown-ups in power should listen and do their jobs.”

Duquette-Hoffman is a parent of three children in the school system.

“I think we have to address, as a larger community, these threats to the safety of our kids, our staff, our teachers and our community in general,” he said. “I think it’s a multi-faceted problem that needs an interconnected and comprehensive set of solutions. I don’t think this (resolution) is intended to be the answer, but it is part of the answer.”

Gov. Scott made clear at a press conference last week his willingness to entertain gun-control initiatives.

“While I fiercely and strongly support all Constitutional rights — including the Second Amendment — the fact is, these tragedies have become too frequent,” Scott said.

“As governor,” he added. “I’m committed to working with legislative leaders to identify policy changes that may better ensure the safety of our children, and all Vermonters. That includes better identifying and treating mental health needs and other root causes of violence, determining why so many children slip through the cracks and having an open conversation about gun safety.”

Many local lawmakers also appear ready to take on gun violence.

“It’s past time for us to take steps to prevent gun violence in our communities, especially in our schools,” said Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury. “It was moving and important to have students in the Statehouse Tuesday morning demanding action on preventing gun violence. I am grateful to get the ACSD resolution and to learn of their shared commitment to making our children safe at school. ”

Sheldon promised to “do all I can to advance the bills with sensible limits on access to guns that have been introduced this session. I am also open to discussing other ideas that have been brought forward. People who care about this issue need to continue to press the governor and the Legislature into taking action this session.”

Fellow Middlebury Democrat Rep. Robin Scheu also favors new laws.

“I applaud ACSD’s resolution and will continue to support efforts to pass common-sense gun violence prevention legislation,” she said. “We need to move on this now.”

Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, said Democratic lawmakers have discussed gun-related legislation in caucus and said that a bill or bills could make it to the Senate floor next week.

“My sense is that the majority of the Senate supports these changes,” she said.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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