Don Turner

Don Turner

MINORITY LEADER DON TURNER

On Tuesday March 6, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Reps. Ben Joseph, Chris Mattos and I hosted a public hearing at the Milton High School auditorium to listen to your views on school safety and gun rights. The hearing was well attended, and we heard from a number of people. A majority of the people in attendance expressed their concern about the proposed gun bills currently being debated in the legislature. The passionate minority of speakers, mostly high school students, presented their thoughts in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Everyone that spoke has very strong feelings about their position. It was very clear early on in their testimony, and their messages didn’t seem to leave a lot opportunity for compromise. This will present a significant challenge for my colleagues and I when we return to Montpelier. Lawmaking is all about compromise.

These are very passionate and decisive discussions, and I appreciate everyone’s point of view. I will try to balance all that I heard from you about theses issues and vote on bills as they come up in the legislature on a case-by-case basis. I will weigh the positive and negative of each proposal, and when I feel the bill does more good than bad, I will vote to support it as I have in the past. I ask for your patience and understanding as the legislature maneuvers its way through the process in this very emotional time in our life. I will do my best to represent the interests of all sides in hopes that it will make you, your kids and our community a safer place to live without diminishing anyone’s constitutional rights.

I want to thank Superintendent Ann Bradshaw for attending and everyone at the Milton School District for their assistance in arranging for us to host the event at the school.

Thank you for your continued support. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, comments or concerns. I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. Thank you and have a great week.

Ben Joseph

REP. BEN JOSEPH

On Tuesday, March 6, the four members of the Vermont House or Representatives who represent Milton – Mitzi Johnson, Don Turner, Ben Joseph and Chris Mattos – met with residents of the town to hear their concerns about gun safety issues. The moderator of the meeting was Darren Adams. When he called the meeting to order at 7 p.m., there were about 60 people in the auditorium of the Milton High School.

At this time there are three bills being considered in the legislature. One provides for universal background checks for gun buyers. Another would raise the age at which a person can own a gun from 18 to 21 years of age. The third bill that would give a court of law the power to order the police to take possession of guns from a person who threatens to use them to harm someone else. More bills concerning the possession and use of guns may be introduced this week. No new laws have been approved by the House and the Senate.

During the meeting, one speaker argued that mandatory registration of gun owners through background checks would lead to the confiscation of those guns by the government. Several people said that more gun safety laws are not needed because the shootings that have happened around the country were not caused by guns – they were caused by bad people using guns. These people argued that we do not have a gun problem in Vermont – we have a people problem.

Still another person commented said that our culture has become more violent because young people spend so much time playing video games that glorify killing. Instead of restricting access to guns, he argued that Vermont should restrict people, not guns. He did not make any specific suggestions about how dangerous people should be identified and restricted.

One speaker argued that 18-year-olds are permitted to use guns in the military and, therefore, they should not be prohibited from owning guns in civilian life. Several people argued that school shootings should be prevented by “hardening” the schools. “Bad guys won’t come in if they know that a good guy is there with a gun.” (This argument ignored the fact that there was an armed guard at the high school in Florida where 17 people were shot to death by a teenager last month.) I did hear one student at the meeting say that her life should have more value than an AR-15 rifle and one adult who questioned the need for automatic weapons that have the capacity to kill large numbers of people.

Let me clear up some misconceptions. No Vermont legislator has suggested that guns should be confiscated by the government. This is a false argument that is being used to frighten gun owners. I do not know of any legislator who has proposed that guns should be taken away from Vermonters. By and large, the speakers at the meeting were well-behaved, although one opponent of gun safety laws did yell at the legislators “Shame on you” and “Thanks for nothing.” Meetings like this one are a good idea. There should be more communication between constituents and their legislators. There were several hundred empty seats in the Milton High School auditorium. We should try to have meetings in which all seats are filled and voters can tell their legislators about their concerns.

Constituents can contact me with questions or comments at benwjoseph@hotmail.com.