It is with great concern that I write your entire body; I have had cause to look at a number of bills you have introduced for consideration to become law, and each one will either reduce Vermonter’s rights, infringe on either the State or US Constitution, or make Vermont more unaffordable than it already is, using the revenues from such taxation/fee structures to subsidize Vermonters needs that wouldn’t need subsidizing if you don’t pass the bill in the first place.
However, instead of trying to address each bill individually in this open letter, I instead will be addressing S.40 specifically, and its provision to ban the mere possession of “assault weapons”.
First, it’s important that you understand what an assault weapon actually is, and why your erroneous redefinition of the term is problematic. An assault weapon is, by definition, a weapon with a selective fire capability. For those of you that have never fired one of these weapons, that means that there is a switch on the side of the firearm that allows it to move from a semi-automatic firing mode, where one round is fired each time the trigger is squeezed, to a burst (a set number of rounds, usually three) each time it is squeezed, or a fully-automatic mode (the weapon will fire until you release the trigger or it runs out of ammunition). As I’m sure you are aware, these weapons are already covered by the National Firearms Act, a regulation that the Supreme Court is slowly but surely ruling as unconstitutional. Your redefinition is problematic as it deliberately folds in a large number of legal modern sporting rifles arbitrarily, and will make a large percentage of the Vermont population felons overnight.
Generally speaking, the argument is that the Founding Fathers never intended for the Second Amendment to include such weapons; this is false. The Founding Fathers specifically expected civilians to hold the same capability as the military, both to supplement it during a time of war, considering a standing army, if required, was to be only large enough to handle an emergency, and to act as a check on its power should the Government use it against the people. The term “well regulated militia”, a non-operative clause in the Amendment, refers to a well trained public, capable of mustering if need be. It should be pointed out that the first time such a well regulated militia was mustered, inspiring this clause, was at Lexington Green; you’ll recall they mustered against the legitimate government of the colonies at the time. This is not meant to condone violence to enact political change; quite the opposite. Rather, the people keeping and bearing arms, particularly capable of countering the existing government forces, ensures that a peaceful dialog is possible. Without the possibility of armed resistance to tyranny, there is no incentive for the government to act in the best interests of the people, nor is there any incentive for bodies such as yours to listen to us when we attempt to redress our grievances. Further, during the time of the American Revolution, and for decades thereafter, use of privateers, private warships under a letter of Marque, was extensive both in and out of the United States. Citizens owned cannon, mortars, howitzers, and other largely destructive weapons contemporary of the time. To this day, it is still legal to own these things; generally it is expense, and not law, that prevents the private ownership of a frigate or tank. In fact, the ownership of an M4 Sherman, fully functional, would only require an NFA Tax Stamp for each browning machine gun mounted on it; the 75mm anti-tank howitzer, being breach-loaded, single-fire weapon, wouldn’t require a special license.
The argument that these weapons couldn’t be conceived of at the time of the Constitution’s writing is also erroneous. By the 1770s, volley guns had begun being developed, including a rudimentary gatling gun (impractical until the cartridge was developed sometime later). Da Vinci had already developed the design for his mobile cannon vehicle, thought to be the first tank design in existence. They had the first submarine, the Turtle, which was privately owned and used to attack British ships using explosives. The simple fact is, the founding fathers had an immense amount of foresight when writing the founding documents of our nation; to deny them their brilliance is a disservice to the country and an insult to those that fought and died to secure our independence.
S.40 would also be a violation of Vermont’s Title 16, and make Subsection 59, both of our Constitution, a joke. Title 16 declares that all Vermonters should bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state, with a provision earlier to prevent Conscientious Objectors from being forced to do so. Further, it is expected that should the Governor, in a time of crisis, trigger subsection 59, all adult Vermonters are members of the militia. No statute, no court, can overrule this Constitutional declaration; it must be amended out directly. Although there is a reasonable expectation that this will never be utilized, there is a significant cultural reason it should remain. You might recall the Green Mountain Boys; the original ones led by Ethan Allen. These armed civilians conquered Fort Ticonderoga twice; each civilian was armed with a weapon equal to, or superior than the standard military arms at the time. To this day we celebrate them for doing so, and this is reflected in Subsection 59. Would you rob Vermonters of this heritage? What would Ethan Allen, or his brother Ira, say to such an action? I would venture a guess that it wouldn’t be supportive, to say the least, and considering Ethan Allen’s famously boisterous and vulgar personality, decidedly the opposite.
This brings me to the most important aspect of this. By passing S.40, you would make a large percentage of Vermonters felons overnight. You might recall the recent passing of a bill banning the use and possession of so-called “bump stocks”. During the grace period after this bill was passed, only two were turned into the State Police. I assure you, it’s doubtful a significant percentage was destroyed. In other words, Vermonters refused to comply. In the passing of this bill, an even larger number of Vermonters will refuse to comply. The only solution you will have open to you is to order the State Police to confiscate these arms, in direct violation of the fourth amendment, using no-knock warrants as giving warning would increase the danger to the people conducting the raids. It would also reduce those conducting the raids to Black Shirts rather than Police Officers; Police defend the Constitution, they do not break it, and they swore an oath to do so. If it is the Senate’s intention to create Vermont’s own Night of the Long Knives, then by all means continue to pass such legislation; it will lead to the deaths of thousands of Vermonters that would rather die than give up their arms. Imagine how the headlines, and history, will regard you should that happen.
Consider, Senators, that this is a nation founded on armed resistance, and kept together because the threat of such resistance is its greatest deterrent. This holds true within the United States in the same way that nuclear armed countries assure that they will not be used in warfare again. If you continue down this road, we will become the next 1930s Italy, with a populace that cannot defend itself, dependent on the State to keep it alive, and incapable of thinking for themselves. Do not be the cause of such a future.