Our Opinion: A pointless, hurtful gesture

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Rationality has been in short supply during any debate over gun issues, whether at the Statehouse in Montpelier or in communities of every size or demographic makeup throughout Vermont.

But perhaps the most irrational moment occurred shortly after the Legislature passed controversial bill S.55 on Friday and sent it on to Gov. Phil Scott for his signature, which is expected.

During a rally outside the Statehouse on Saturday, coordinated by the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, and Rob Curtis of Williston, executive editor of Recoil, a magazine based in California, some 1,200 high-capacity 30-round magazines were handed out among the crowd.

The reason? This was apparently an in-your-face gesture aimed at a provision of the proposed law that includes a ban on long-gun magazines with more than 10 rounds and pistol magazines with more than 15 rounds.

Curtis apparently had contacted a firearm accessories manufacturer, Magpul, and received a donation of the 30-round magazines, all 1,200 of which were given away on Saturday.

This was yet another moment in this nation's long, often crazed debate over gun laws that went far off the rails.

Those at the rally were right to voice their opinions, just as many thousands have in favor of tighter gun laws in the wake of deadly shootings at schools around the country and the daily gun-related killings in which the United States tragically leads the industrialized world.

The ban on higher-capacity magazines was, in fact, the final piece of S.55 still being hotly debated by lawmakers on Friday before the final voting. It was cited as difficult to impossible to prosecute for violations and possibly unconstitutional, but it was narrowly approved in the final Senate vote. Chances are, this issue will come up again next session, if not earlier.

Any magazines already owned by Vermonters, it also should be noted, would be grandfathered under the new law and the owners not subject to any kind of penalty.

So what was the point on Saturday of handing out the type of high-capacity magazines used to commit mass murder around the country in recent decades? Beyond pointless, that was a heartless gesture when the memories of students gunned down in schools in Florida or Connecticut or Colorado, among numerous other educational sites, are given any kind of consideration.

Like much else that has fouled the tone of debate in an era of vulgar presidential tweets, handing out military style magazine clips during an exercise of free speech helped sink the bar of civil discourse still lower.

The people on the other side of this debate aren't trying to take away the rights of law-abiding gun owners (grossly inflated as they are into a sacred inheritance by NRA and gun manufacturer lobbyists, far beyond anything actually written in the Second Amendment).

Those fellow citizens who supported and passed S.55 and the related bills last week in Montpelier were merely responding, in a rational manner, to a national crisis that can no longer be ignored.

— The Bennington Banner

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