Letter: Vermont Has a Gun Problem

To the Editor:

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was quoted in the June 25 Valley News as saying, “We make our children our No. 1 priority in Vermont. But we can’t be satisfied; Vermont should lead the nation in ensuring that all children have the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives.”

However, the governor’s stance on reducing gun violence is in direct conflict with that statement. Indeed, Shumlin maintains that reducing gun violence is a “50-state issue” and therefore refuses to take a leadership role in addressing gun safety in Vermont, opting to leave the work instead to the federal government. While it would certainly help to have nationwide standards, the stalemate in Congress suggests that will not happen for a long time, if ever.

The governor also maintains that we do not have a “gun problem” in Vermont. As a former resident of a town adjacent to Newtown, Conn., I can assure you that Newtown didn’t think it had a gun problem, either. The fact is that we do have a problem: Vermont has the highest rate of gun deaths in New England, mostly by suicide. Vermont has the 12th-highest suicide rate (a majority by guns) in the country and the highest in the Northeast. Vermont is 16th in the nation in exporting guns later found in crimes and exports more guns per capita than any New England state (data sources available at gunsensevt.org).

While gun violence can’t be completely eliminated, measures can indeed be taken here to make gun-related injuries and deaths less likely by making it more difficult for guns to fall into the wrong hands, whether they are the hands of criminals, young children or someone contemplating suicide. I’m not talking about banning anything, but simply taking action to: ensure universal background checks for all gun purchases; enhance gun education and safe storage; and enforce laws and strictly punish those who traffic guns or do not handle them safely. For our children’s sake, I encourage our governor, legislators and residents to take action now and not wait for another large-scale tragedy.

David J. Bucci