2018-03-29 / Letters

Request for Public Hearing on S.55

Dear House Speaker Johnson and House Judiciary Chair Maxine Grad -
The coalition of Vermont-based firearms groups which is comprised of the Vermont Federation of Sportsman's Clubs (VTFSC), the Vermont Traditions Coalition (VTC) and the Gun Owners of Vermont (GOVT), have all noted several issues which we bring to your attention.
The first issue involves our constituent's ability to be in contact with their elected officials by email and telephone, which is conversely having the effect of denying legislators the ability to hear from their constituents.  Regarding calls, it appears that calls being made to the Sergeant At Arms have overwhelmed that office, such that individual messages are no longer being disseminated in favor of building and then disseminating "call log sheets" which is an unprecedented action.  In talking to the Sergeant At Arms Office, we believe we understand that these "Call log sheets" are theoretically being disseminated to House Judiciary - but we have learned from some members of that committee that they are not seeing these "call log sheets".  Regarding Email, we have been made aware that some emails from our constituents are apparently being directed to individual legislator's SPAM folders, when "SPAM Engines" are not being used by any of us for contacting Legislators.
As important, if not more so, is the fact that bills like S.6, in addition to the change of Age to purchase a firearm, never received any discussion in any Senate Committee, effectively preventing any testimony on these aspects to that body.  Beyond that, we note that S.6, in addition to the proposed change in age to purchase a firearm, the proposed ban on Semiautomatic Assault Rifles, the proposed ban on high-capacity magazines, the proposal to require safe storage of firearms when not in possession, and the proposal of a waiting period in S.55 ALL HAVE NEVER BEEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY OF A PUBLIC HEARING.
In reviewing the House Judiciary schedule for last week, we further note that it was at one time proposed that, despite having a bundle of amendments to S.55 being added as of Tuesday the 13th; last week's scheduled reflected a possible Committee vote on passage for Thursday the 15th, with a definite vote on Friday the 14th - which meant that there was the expectation that this all could be discussed, carefully considered and deliberated in under 4 days.  Even though the schedule was subsequently changed such that a final Committee vote now appears to be scheduled for 10 AM Wednesday the 21st, there is every appearance that this momentous piece of legislation will be rammed through House Judiciary in a little over a week with exceedingly limited public input. 
Combined, we find these things troublesome and unexpected as a fair and balanced deliberative process that Vermonters expect from their elected representatives.  The amendments being proposed are monumental, and if passed will result in a significant impact on Vermonters, particularly those Vermonters between the ages of 18-20.  We therefore respectfully request that the House take the prudent action that is expected of a deliberative body, and allow for a Public Hearing that will allow Vermonters to speak to the issues at hand, and we suggest that this NOT be limited to only two hours.  Any other course of action would be injurious to the law-making process that is to be expected from our Legislature, a process which should allow Legislators to hear directly from Vermonters.
Chris Bradley, President - VTFSC
Ed Larson, Executive Director - VTC
Ed Cutler, President - GOVT
Vermont Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs

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