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Forum, April 14: New gun control laws are not what’s needed

Published: 4/13/2021 10:00:05 PM
Modified: 4/13/2021 10:00:03 PM
New gun control laws are not what’s needed

To have a valid debate, facts are needed. When discussing guns, nonfacts are touted while valid facts are ignored.

There’s the term “assault weapon.” It was coined by anti-gun activist Josh Sugarmann in the 1980s to demonize “modern sporting rifles” by tricking people into believing they are fully automatic military arms. They aren’t. Fully automatic weapons — machine guns — are virtually banned by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Owning one is possible, but it’s an expensive and time-consuming process. Additionally, Congress has been unable to come up with a clear legal definition of the term “assault weapon.” They’re forced to ban arms by name. The 1994-2004 ban had little effect on crime.

There’s a reason for that. Despite private ownership of more than 15 million AR-15-style rifles (“AR-15” stands for “Armalite Rifle, model 15”; Armalite was the original designer), FBI statistics show that an average of 350 people annually are killed by rifles of all types (in cases where the firearm is known). More people are beaten to death with hands and feet.

AR-style rifles are used widely for hunting small game and are quite useful against feral hogs, which are an expensive menace in the southeastern U.S. With their relatively light recoil, they’re popular for sport shooting and just plain “plinking.”

New laws restricting firearms are not needed. There are many “gun control” laws on the books. Enforce them. For instance, just handling a firearm with a felony criminal conviction is itself a felony that can mean years in jail. Yet most of these charges aren’t prosecuted — they’re usually the first ones dropped in a plea bargain.

In terms of random murders, we have less of a problem than many nations. Take four large cities out of the equation — Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans and Los Angeles — and our national murder rate drops dramatically. A substantial proportion of urban gun murders are gang-related. It’s clear we do not have a gun problem. We have a gang problem.



Misinformation used to justify vaccine refusal

In response to the Forum contributors in the April 8 issue of the Valley News who “affirmed” their right to refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine: At this time, no one is under a legal obligation to be vaccinated. Furthermore, we are months away from any situation where such an obligation would even be considered, as there is still not enough product to vaccinate those of us who desire to protect the vulnerable among us, as well as health care and front-line workers. This “brave” stance against obligatory vaccination is taken against a straw man.

What should be more concerning is the use of misinformation to justify these positions.

By definition, there can be no “long-term studies” performed on a vaccine developed in response to an outbreak that is only a year old. Vaccines were tested — to the greatest extent possible — on human volunteers in the months leading up to emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. Since then COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to tens of millions.

The use of the go-to anecdote of the anti-vaccination movement — cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome among some recipients of the swine flu vaccine in 1976 — is also unhelpful. Guillain-Barre syndrome is caused by an immune response, rarely to a vaccine but much more commonly to an actual infection. Guillain-Barre syndrome has not been documented as a significant side effect of any vaccine in recent history.

The suggestion that obesity in COVID-19 patients is the only comorbidity worthy of concern is also dangerously inaccurate. The virulence of a COVID-19 case is also potentially increased by lupus, cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, liver disease, Down syndrome and, most importantly, age. Fat shaming does not negate this reality.

The examples given of the side effects of attenuated live vaccines are also completely irrelevant. The basis for manufactured COVID-19 vaccines — mRNA — is not derived from the actual virus.

By all means, affirm the right to refuse vaccination. But please do not use misinformation to justify it.



Trump’s lies continue

The sore loser Donald Trump continues to spread lies about the 2020 presidential election: insisting that he didn’t lose but won and that his “victory” was “stolen” from him by Democrats through massive voter fraud, and that the Jan. 6 violent attempted insurrection of the U.S. government by his supporters, which he fomented for months by spreading the election lie, was a peaceful protest by his followers, who were infiltrated by anti-Trump activists who violently beat the Capitol police and killed one of them.

Trump is aided in his dangerous lies by most of the spineless Republicans in Congress, including Lindsay Graham, Mitch McConnell, Mo Brooks, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and the now infamously vile Matt Gaetz. He is also aided by millions of American citizens who continue to support and believe an obvious con man, and the nightly liars on Fox “News” television: Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham. (Am I the only person who wonders how someone like Hannity ever got into such a dangerous position of power?)

Donald Trump reminds me of guys we all knew in high school and dismissed as blowhards and jerks and ignored. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” What does it say about American civilization that a repugnant character like Trump could garner so much adoration from millions of its citizens? Emerson, again, said it well: “The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops — no, but the kind of man the country turns out.”


Newbury, Vt.

Vermont’s federal delegation is green

Vermont Conservation Voters, on whose board I serve as a member, recently shared the results of the 2020 National Environmental Scorecard from the League of Conservation Voters. The Scorecard has been used for more than 50 years to analyze the environmental records of all members of Congress.

Once again, Vermont’s federal delegation is one of the greenest in the nation. Sen. Patrick Leahy received a score of 92%, and Rep. Peter Welch scored 100%. Examples of their leadership include Sen. Leahy’s hard work to increase funding for Lake Champlain cleanup and for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Rep. Welch’s national leadership on energy efficiency initiatives, including for schools.

Sen. Bernie Sanders received a score of 62% due to missing some votes during his presidential campaign, but he has continued to serve as an environmental champion for Vermont in the Senate. This includes being a lead sponsor and vocal advocate for numerous important bills to address the climate crisis, ensure access to clean water, protect public lands and address environmental justice.

I am excited to have a federal administration that is prioritizing climate action and that can be a partner in Vermont’s efforts to build a clean energy economy.

The 2020 National Environmental Scorecard is available online at



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