Happy New Year! We are hoping for--and working for--a safe and peaceful year for all of us.
To usher in the new year, we're changing the name of our monthly newsletter to The GunSense Activist. We are activists in many different ways: we organize, we call or write letters, we donate, we have important conversations with our friends and families. All of it is valuable, and all of it can have an impact. We hope that this will help you in whatever activism you undertake.
In this edition...
Here in Vermont:
- What gun violence prevention bills can we expect to see in 2020?
- Looking for 10 new sustaining members to kick off the session
- Mental Health Advocacy Day Jan. 29
- VT Department of Health offers latest data on guns in VT homes
The national landscape and other notes:
- Mass shootings reach all-time high in 2019
What bills can we expect to see in Montpelier this year?
The 2020 legislative session opened on Tuesday, Jan. 7th, and it looks like it will be a busy session. Among the measures that we hope to see advanced are:
- A prohibition on possession of guns and temporary removal of guns from the subject of a restraining order for the length of that order. This would be a major step in protecting victims of domestic violence.
- Expansion of Vermont's Extreme Risk Protection Order, allowing medical professionals to petition the courts for the temporary removal of guns from a person who is deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or others
- Closing the "Charleston loophole." Right now, if a background check is submitted but not completed within three days it is essentially waived, and the gun sale can go through. This is what allowed the gunman who murdered nine people at Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church to purchase the weapon he used. By closing this loophole, background checks can work as they are intended to. Some gun retailers, including Walmart, have chosen not to sell guns without a completed background check.
Be a year-'round activist: Become a sustaining member!
To kick off a productive 2020 legislative session, GunSense is looking for 10 new sustaining members. Show your commitment to gun violence prevention each month with a donation of any size. All new sustaining members who sign up before the legislature goes on Town Meeting Break will receive a GunSense t-shirt, a GunSense sticker, and our eternal gratitude! Sign up at www.gunsensevt.org/membership.
Mental Health Advocacy Day: January 29 at the State House
The Vermont Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is organizing a Mental Health Advocacy Day at the State House, starting at 8:30 a.m. The agenda includes activities that will be of interest for every mental health advocate and supporter, including advocacy training, opportunities to interact with legislators, Award presentations, providing testimony, and listening to personal stories of lived experience. GunSense is one of many cosponsors of this important day. Check the NAMI-VT website (www.namivt.org)for more information.
VT Department of Health Data on Guns in VT Homes
What's the likelihood of there being an unlocked, loaded gun in a Vermont home? About 1 in 20, according to the latest statistics from the VT Dept. of Health. About 43% of Vermonters own guns, and of those, 17% keep them loaded. 65% who keep them loaded also keep them unlocked. That accounts for 5% of the total population.
The brief also contains basic reminders about safe gun storage, including:
- Store unloaded firearms in a locked location inaccessible to children and unauthorized users, such as a safe.
- Lock firearms with a device that requires a key or combination to access or fire it.
- Store ammunition in a locked location separate from firearms.
The National Landscape
Mass shootings* in 2019 reached all-time high
In 2019, Gun Violence Archive documented 417 mass shootings in the United States, leaving 2169 people dead or injured. While these numbers are horrifying, it is important to remember that those deaths and injuries still account for a relatively small percentage of all gun deaths and injuries. Non-high profile incidents are more the norm, with suicide and domestic violence being of particular concern here in Vermont. It is also important to remember and support the many and varied organizations working to prevent gun violence and build community in places that see gun violence on a regular basis. Take a look at the work of The National Black and Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium, Advance Peace, and the Center for Policing Equity, to name just a few.
*Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as resulting in the death or injury of 4 or more people, not including the shooter.
GunSense is Vermont's only independent, grassroots gun violence prevention organization. We are a movement of Vermonters focusing at the state level because that is where laws are being changed and individual action has the most impact.
When you support GunSense, you are making a choice to keep your money and your energy in Vermont, ensuring that your voice is heard. With your support we can bring about the change that is so desperately needed. We can make Vermont a safer place to live, work, and raise a family.