Baruth gun carry ban won’t stop crime, Defender General says

Public Defender Matt Valerio (bottom center) in Senate Judiciary airs his doubts about S30, a bill to ban carrying firearms in some public places, proposed by Sen. Phil Baruth (bottom right)

By Guy Page

A bill sponsored by Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) to prohibit carrying guns in some public places won’t prevent gun violence, is already covered by other laws, and could end up harming the people it’s meant to protect, Vermont Public Defender General Matthew Valerio told a Senate committee.

S30 would prohibit the possession of firearms at childcare facilities, hospitals, and certain public buildings. It’s co-sponsored by 15 senators – enough to secure passage if they all vote for it. Co-sponsors are Sens. Balint, Bray, Campion, Chittenden, Clarkson, Cummings, Hardy, Hooker, Lyons, McCormack, Pearson, Perchlik, Ram, Sirotkin and White. All are Democrats and/or Progressives. 

Baruth opened a Wednesday, Jan. 20 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee by explaining why he proposed S30: the “unprecedented” threat posed by gun-toting Americans upset by political opponents and mask-wearing policies. 

Last year, intimidating citizens brought firearms into state houses, Baruth said. “The pandemic intensified that. Anti mask protests began to merge with armed groups. People in daily life who ask others to wear a mask are being routinely assaulted and threatened…. We’re in an unprecedented time.” 

“As everyone knows, incidents have increased in number to the point where several days ago every state capital in the nation was on a form of lockdown because of threats of armed revolt, insurrection, protest – we’re in a state where no-one really knows what to call it,” Baruth said. 

S30 proposes “just the absolute minimum on what everyone could agree on,” Baruth said. “If you would ask the average Vermonter they would say these are resoundingly common sense ideas.”

State law already prohibits carrying guns in schools (1989 law) and courthouses (1993), Legislative Council lawyer Erik Fitzpatrick told the committee. A legislative rule prohibits carrying guns in the State House. But it lacks the force of law. Capitol police could ask a gun carryer to leave, perhaps cite them with trespass or breach of peace. But no gun carrying laws cover the State House – or other government buildings, childcare facilities, or hospitals.

“Isn’t that odd that some public officials are protected by statute and others are not?,” asked State Auditor Doug Hoffer. “I think it’s a good idea, a good bill.”

A string of other state officials testified in support of S30, most of them also offering re-election congratulations to other elected officials on the call. 

Attorney General TJ Donovan – “I support this bill. This a common-sense appoach, a reasonable solution. People have a right to feel safe and not worry about guns. Intimidation is real.” Last week a constituent told Donovan about an “argument about a mask and someone lifted up a jacket or a coat and showed a gun. This is real.”

(Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) pushed back on the ‘intimidation’ concern. “If we are passing this bill because people are intimidated, we are opening up a unending list of places where intimidation alone brings in similar statutory moves,” Benning said. The bill seeks to prevent violence. “I don’t want to get on the slippery slope because someone is intimidated by the presence of a weapon.”)

Treasurer Beth Pearce supports it too. She worries about potential threats to her workers from stressed-out retirees. “Sometimes you have some stress, as people are looking at retirement…… It can get a little tense there.” People have contemplated suicide on the phone. A visitor (non-threatening) did walk into their office carrying a gun, she said. 

Secretary of State Jim Condos – “I support the bill. We’ve had several incidents over the last few years due to threats…. We had quite a few after the election.” 

Ditto, said John Campbell, executive director of the VT State’s Attorneys and Sheriff’s Association. “We wholeheartedly support the bill,” the former police officer and Senate Pro Tem said. Several deputy State’s Attorneys have been physically threatened. “Recently there has been no shortage of threats.”

And then it was Vermont Defender General Matt Valerio’s turn. He first noted there are 393 civilian-owned firearms in the United States, enough for every man, woman and child with about 60 million to spare. While not taking a position on the bill, he said S30 offers iffy answers to all four questions he routinely asks about every new crime bill.

  1. Does it violate the U.S. or Vermont constitutions? Probably not, he says – but the Senate should tread carefully. 

“Obviously there are Second Amendment issues that arise, but I don’t see them as an impediment to making this sort of limitation to those rights,” because the Constitution doesn’t give ‘carte blanche’ to all gun activities. Yet he added – “I do have a concern for the erosion of constitutional rights. I don’t think you can pick and choose that you like the First Amendment better than the Second Amendment.” 

  1. Do current laws address the problem? Valerio says 13VSA 4003 “carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to injure another”carries a sentence of up to 10 years. “It’s not the carrying of the firearm that’s the problem, it’s the intent of the person carrying the firearm that’s the problem.” Reckless endangerment statutes also cover the danger as presented by S30’s supporters.  
  1. Will the new law solve the problem? Probably not. “The person who wants to use the firearm in a daycare or hospital is not being deterred by the law,” Valerio said. “If you’re not deterred by a life in prison, you’re not going to be deterred by carrying a weapon. There’s no evidence that they do deter the conduct thought to be prohibited.” As a member of Gov. Scott’s recent task force on violence protection, “it became clear that more criminal laws and protections were not going to increase safety,” he said. Prevention and training works better. 
  1. Could the new law harm those it’s meant to protect? He said the bill may create a situation in which “the only people who can’t respond…are the people working there because they don’t have the ability to defend themselves.” 

Valerio suggested turning the bill into a civil violation (similar to a traffic ticket) rather than a crime. That way police would have the authorization to escort someone from the premises. But Baruth made it clear he wouldn’t accept such a downgrade.

Finally, Executive Director Chris Bradley of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs was allowed to testify in the closing minutes of the hearing. “Vermont is the second safest state in the nation,” next to Maine, Bradley said. “Our laws stand in contrast with New York and Massachusetts, where we see double the crime rate of Vermont. Firearms are part of our culture. It [carrying firearms] represents the ability of Vermonters  to defend themselves.”

Bradley then cited eight existing state laws addressing gun crime committed in public areas. He is scheduled to complete his testimony Friday morning.

Categories: Gunrights

16 replies »

  1. I sent an e-mail to my Washington Co. Senators voicing my opinions regarding more gun legislation. The following is part of the response I received form one of them. “I do trust that we will reach a reasonable compromise that recognizes Vermonters concerns about safety while also protecting our rights”. Does that sound familiar ? I of course had to point out,” The word “compromise” implies that there is some concession on the part of both (all) parties involved in a negotiation. I would point out that at one time the only laws pertaining to firearms, their possession use, and sale were embodied in the 2nd Amendment and Article 16, all laws, and regulations since then have been concessions agreed to or imposed on one side. Where is the “compromise ? When does the “compromise” end ? I would also point out that since one particular Senator arrived on the scene, and was appointed to the Judiciary Committee all “gun control” bills have been written, sponsored, or co-sponsored by this member. It is my opinion that this Senator is obsessed with “gun control”.to the point that it affects rational thinking about the issue.

  2. Sad that some politicians promote their personal agenda and are blinded by prejudice. They don’t want hear the true facts. They should subscribe to the American Rifleman and learn the truth about firearms and the 2nd Amendment.

  3. All legislators in Vermont should read the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution,and Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution;That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State…Not only that ,but the legislators and Governor’s power comes from we the people,just as it is written!! Also these rights are not to be infringed!!

  4. If people are worried about being intimidated, why just guns? Can i walk through Hannaford’s with an angry face and a bloody axe? Hey, no problem, that’s not a gun carried out of sight behind my jacket. How about a cane with a lethal injection tip, that the Russians used to kill emigres on a London street? Forget this foolishness.

  5. Gun “control” does not and never will resolve gun “violence”. Violence is perpetrated by People not guns. None of the reasons voiced by the supporters of this bill are even addressed by it. If we’re worried about state buildings being overrun by rioters, or stressed retirees, or angry Vermonters, let’s address the root causes of why they are rioting, stressed, and angry, not prevent the sane people from protecting themselves against the willing lawbreakers who will riot, attack, and wrongly use force regardless of how many laws we make to stop them. S30 is classic BAD legislation. It’s totally unnecessary and further erodes the rights of the law abiding citizen.

  6. The systematic and incremental erosion of rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, that Baruch is sworn to uphold and protect.

    Shameful posturing with almost zero data to support the NEED for the proposed bills.

    Agenda driven drivel wasting our legislators and citizens time.

    A pathetic and partisan answer in search of a question no one with thoughtful information is really asking.

  7. Since going to a public place with any weapon with intent to cause mayhem is already prohibited by criminal statute, this proposal is a solution in search of a problem. If someone is intent on criminal harm, one additional law is not going to dissuade them.
    “Isn’t that odd that some public officials are protected by statute and others are not?” asked State Auditor Doug Hoffer.
    Well, isn’t it odd that you would ask someone who carries for self defense to give up THEIR right to be protected by implementing geographical restrictions.
    “People have a right to feel safe and not worry about guns” said Atty Gen. Donovan. Well, Mr. Donovan, with your vast legal knowledge, perhaps you can explain where the US or Vermont Constitution guarantees a right to “feel safe”. Some people “feel safe” when they can make use of their Constitutional Right to responsibly bear a common tool of self-defense.
    A responsible person who carries a firearm for defense of self and others considers that tool to be a SHIELD, not a WEAPON. History has shown that a legally defined “gun free zone” is simply a target-rich environment. Ever since cutbacks to police have become politically fashionable, it is unconscionable that anyone would propose restrictions on those who take responsibility for their own protection. Agreed, it’s a dangerous world…precisely why any further restrictions to self defense should not even be considered.

  8. In England where guns are banned from citizens and police there’s been an explosion in recent years of police and citizens killed with swords, knives, hammers, axes, it’s not the weapon, it’s the evil intent of those desiring to harm others. This article states that Vermont is one of the lowest gun crime states in the nation. when people own guns criminals see it as a deterrent. A populace that is educated in the proper use and safe handling of guns is a safer populace. But gun grabbers cannot/will not see that. perhaps they need to take some gun safety classes to understand it!

  9. The elected? politicians who legislate to take away gun rights (2nd amendment) will gladly supply the citizens with a fresh pallet of bricks to hurl at perpetrators and the game we hope to harvest to feed our families.

  10. Add to this the facts that many existing statutes exist to address the same issues and all have been shown to the Committee. Tresspass Orders are readily available for anyone who fails to comply with signage denying entry to persons with firearms.

    Also, we have the right to avoid places that don’t allow firearms because they are sought after targets for mass shooters.

  11. I am sure that most people who have responded here have heard the old saying “an armed society is a polite society”. I would like to propose that the politicians under the “Golden Dumb” that propose these bills subscribe to a different rule which states, “an unarmed society is a compliant society”.

  12. This proposed law is literally covered under Federal Law. Why not enforce laws already on the books before we waist time creating new ones? What makes anyone think a criminal intent on doing harm will obey ANY law?

  13. If this legislator is so sure that “the average Vermonter they would say these are resoundingly common sense ideas” then how about putting it on a ballot referendum to let the average Vermonter decide?

    • The Vermont General Assembly has never entertained the notion that the “average Vermonter” should have access to direct democracy. They have determined that is too dangerous for us to be swayed by the special interests and that is something they only allow themselves to experience, especially when that “lobbying” comes with the promise of a nice fat campaign contribution. They also have so far maintained their powerful six member Chittenden County delegation from the “enlightened” part of our state to make sure that those tired, old-fashioned ideas from our past are kept in check.

  14. ALL GUN CONTROL UNDER THE CONSTITUTION IS ILLEGAL! Government does not give us our rights. Our rights are not given to us by the Constitution. Our rights are given to us by God and are inherent to us as human beings by the Laws of Nature. These rights that we are born with are affirmed to us by the Constitution in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the Constitution and specify what the government can and cannot do to us as citizens of the United States. Government’s only power is the power which is enumerated to it by the Constitution. The federal government, a state or town can not pass a law contrary to the Constitution. Under our Constitution the government is not delegated the authority to legislate, enforce, or adjudicate laws pertaining to the exercise of our rights under the Constitution – Period. The government is not delegated the authority by our Constitution to require government permission to exercise any right affirmed to us under the Constitution. The government is not delegated the authority by our Constitution to compel us to waive our guaranteed 4th Amendment right to be secure from unwarranted interrogation, search, or seizure in the absence of probable cause of criminal conduct. Or compel us to waive our guaranteed 5th Amendment right to due process as a precondition to being allowed (or denied) the exercise of our right to keep and bear arms. This violation of our 4th and 5th Amendment rights happens every time we are interrogated when we fill out BATFE form 4473 without probable cause that a crime has been committed under penalty of perjury to purchase a firearm. The government is not delegated the authority by our Constitution to compel us to waive our 10th Amendment right to a federal government exercising only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution, and State governments are prohibited the exercise of any power prohibited to the States by the United States Constitution.
    The government is not delegated the authority under the 14th Amendment to make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. Government is not even delegated by our Constitution the authority to license firearm dealers or operate or fund the most powerful anti-rights government agency on the planet called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Since no Amendment in the Bill of Rights has been repealed thru Article V or by a National Convention of States, the only way to legally change the Constitution, all existing gun control laws presently violate five Amendments of the Bill of Rights. The purpose of compelled background checks as a precondition to allowing or denying the transfer of a firearm is to deceive firearm owners and prospective owners into unknowingly waiving their rights guaranteed by the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 10th and 14th Amendments so they will have no rights left to claim when the government decides to confiscate our firearms. We have a right to keep and bear arms, not a privilege to keep and bear arms. Our rights are beyond the reach of government and no one has to ask government permission to exercise a right. Government has no authority delegated by the Constitution to deceive its citizens into waiving their rights or acquiescing to the loss of their rights by subterfuge, scam, fraud, or force. DO NOT VOLUNTARILY GIVE UP YOUR RIGHTS !

    “No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; the servant is
    above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid”. Alexander Hamilton – Federalist No.76

    Unconstitutional Official Acts
    16 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256:
    The general misconception is that any statute passed by legislators bearing the appearance of law constitutes the law of the land. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statute, to be valid, must be In agreement. It is impossible for both the Constitution and a law violating it to be valid; one must prevail. This is succinctly stated as follows:
    The General rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of it’s enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. An unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed. Such a statute leaves the question that it purports to settle just as it would be had the statute not been enacted. Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection, and justifies no acts performed under it..… A void act cannot be legally consistent with a valid one. An unconstitutional law cannot operate to supersede any existing valid law. Indeed, insofar as a statute runs counter to the fundamental law of the lend, it is superseded thereby.
    No one Is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.

    “An unconstitutional act is not law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; affords no protection; it creates no office; it in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it has never been passed”.
    Norton vs Shelby County 1886 – 118 US 425 p.442