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12/31/2012 9:22:00 AM
Shumlin Supports '50 State Strategy' On Assault Weapons
Andrew Nemethy

Citing the heartbreaking shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, Gov. Peter Shumlin said he backed a national effort to prevent assault weapons from getting in the hands of those who are planning mayhem.

Shumlin said something needed to be done to prevent a "deranged person with a weapon of war" from being able to carry out mass killings. The governor said he supported President Barack Obama's creation of a commission to look at ways to reduce gun violence and said it would take a "national 50 state strategy" undertaken by Washington to get weapons of war out of the hands of those intent on killing others.

Shumlin doesn't support an assault weapon ban in Vermont.

"State by state won't work," said Shumlin, noting Connecticut has stricter gun laws than Vermont and the killings there occurred anyway. He said only a "comprehensive approach" would be able to prevent someone from crossing state lines to buy assault rifles and easily circumvent local or state laws.

"That's how we have to proceed, with a national solution for all 50 states," the governor said. He added that other factors, such as a "culture of violence" will also need to be addressed.

"This is a tough problem that's not going to be solved overnight," he said.

On the day of the shooting of 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, the governor said, "While I continue to support the right of law abiding Vermonters to own guns, I'm open to a broader discussion about what we can do to keep firearms out of the wrong hands. Congress and the President should enter into a vigorous and thoughtful debate about how we can prevent tragedies like this in the future."

Vermont has among the weakest gun laws in the nation. Gun violence rates here are also among the lowest.

Experts say without a "mirror" law in Vermont, however, a national ban on assault weapons will have little effect. Local and state police are currently unable to enforce national laws on the possession of firearms by felons and convicted domestic violence offenders, for example.

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