Vermont Mayors Coalition Calls on State to Protect Vermonters


June 28, 2016
Contact:  Katie Vane


Vermont Mayors Coalition Calls on State to Protect Vermonters
Coalition Calls for Universal Background Checks, Law Enforcement Notification of NICS Failures and 
Confirmation That S.141 Mandated NICS Reporting Is Happening


Burlington, VT – In the wake of the Orlando shooting the Vermont Mayors Coalition (VMC) today renewed its call for state action on universal background checks and to take critical steps to increase the efficacy of such checks.  Speaking at the Burlington Police Department, where Vermont mayors first gathered over three years ago in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting to call for state gun violence reforms, the mayors together called for critical state action to improve the safety of Vermonters by:

  • Joining nearly twenty other states in enacting legislation to require background checks for all gun purchases in Vermont, eliminating the loophole in the federal law that allows approaching half of gun purchases to be completed without a background check.  The Mayors called for all candidates for legislative and statewide office to declare there position on this issue, which multiple polls have shown to be supported by approximately 80-90 percent of Vermonters.  
  • Creating a notification system to alert local law enforcement when prohibited persons attempt to purchase firearms.
  • Ensuring that the reporting of individuals in Vermont who have been adjudicated to be a threat to themselves or others because of dangerous mental health conditions are being reported properly to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database.  Prior to the enactment of S. 141 in the 2015 legislative session only a handful of the thousands of individuals who have been adjudicated to be a threat had been reported to the database.  Despite repeated calls since January, 2016 for a report on S.141 implementation, the VMC has not been able to confirm implementation of new protocols.

In addition to calling for background check reforms, the Mayors made two announcements:

  • The Coalition reaffirmed its call for the State Legislature to respect the role municipalities play in ensuring public safety and to allow local regulation of firearms issues when such regulations are not in conflict with the rights of Vermont’s sportsmen and women.
  • Mayor Lauzon announced that he will host and personally contribute funds for a VMC event in Barre prior to the next legislative session that will attempt to bridge the divide between Vermonters on the issue of gun violence.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger: “In the three years since twenty elementary school children were murdered in Newtown, the country has witnessed hundreds of mass shootings, including the worst in modern United States history in Orlando, Florida and a terrible tragedy in Barre, Vermont. Yet our federal and state government have failed to act to stop further massacres.  We applaud the efforts of our federal delegation to demand action at the federal level, which would clearly be the best way to enact meaningful reforms, but in the absence of such action, state and local leaders must act.  Vermont has led the way on other issues ranging from marriage equality to global warming, and Vermonters are demanding action on this front as well.  Vermonters and their neighbors will be safer when Montpelier requires background checks for the guns sold in the state and allows local municipalities to enact common sense public safety policies to protect their citizens and police officers.”

Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon: “When the Vermont Mayors Coalition started this conversation we were determined to find actions that we thought could make a difference.  It is my hope that we can establish a respectful dialogue with one common goal: to establish gun safety in Vermont.  The results always seem to be the same for those in public service: we try to shout above each other, and nothing really gets done.  We do not find compromise and we do not find common ground.  But when it comes to gun violence reform, there is much room for improvements I think we can all agree on.  In that spirit, I will commit personal resources to convening a multi-day forum in Barre this fall where people of all different opinions are invited to attend.  Let’s bring together individuals from both sides of this issue to start this important dialogue”

Montpelier Mayor John Hollar: “Vermont has been fortunate not to have experienced the horrific mass shootings that have occurred in so many other states.  But Vermonters do experience the quiet tragedy of suicides that all of us read in the obituary sections of our newspapers each week.  Our suicide rate is one-third higher than the national average, and we know that background checks are an effective way to prevent suicides.  There are 48 percent fewer gun suicides in states that require background checks for private handgun sales than in states like Vermont that do not.  Let’s close this loophole that is contributing to the tragic and avoidable deaths of so many Vermonters.”

Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard: “How many more tragedies will it take before action is taken as a nation, as a state, and in our communities?  Today, we call for our state to take immediate steps to protect our communities from devastation that may be prevented through sensible measures that would ensure weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.  We hope others will join us in demanding this conversation be brought into the light of day.  Vermonters deserve a reasonable and open discussion about how we can best protect our community members while also preserving each individual's rights. We should work together with urgency to find solutions to prevent gun violence that fit Vermont values and the needs of our communities.  Protection of our communities and protection of rights need not be mutually exclusive goals.”

The Vermont Mayors Coalition has been active on common sense gun violence reforms in Vermont for several years. During the last legislative session, the mayors focused on strengthening reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by improving notification of prohibited person attempts to purchase firearms, and requesting an update on the implementation of S. 141, which mandated improved reporting of mental health data to NICS. The mayors have also supported the Vermont tradition of local control, advocating that what works in one Vermont municipality in an urban setting like Burlington may be different than another municipality that is more rural.

The Vermont Mayors Coalition was created in 2013 by Vermont’s eight Mayors.  Its members include:

  • Bill Benton, Vergennes; 
  • Liz Gamache, St. Albans;
  • John Hollar, Montpelier;
  • Thom Lauzon, Barre;
  • Seth Leonard, Winooski;
  • Chris Louras, Rutland;
  • Paul Monette, Newport; and
  • Miro Weinberger, Burlington.



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