“There was a pause originally during the lockdowns in 2020 during the pandemic. Then, as society opened up, we return to the horrible, groundhog-day effect of waking up to mass shooting after mass shooting, said Senator Phil Baruth, D-P Vermont.
Baruth says the attack on the U.S. Capitol prompted lawmakers, like him, to change some gun laws in the state. Currently, the Senate is working to enact Bill S.30, which is written to ban guns in hospitals.
However, the bill is still pending, despite the rise in mass shootings in recent weeks. In fact, there have been nearly 40 mass shootings in the month of April, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C.
This month’s mass shootings is down from 45 in March.
“I was sitting on a commuter train, coming home from work, having just gotten out of class in downtown Chicago. I was listening to my walk-man radio. Suddenly, a news post had cut in, saying there had been a shooting at a suburban school,” said Bob Williamson, a Board Member for GunSense Vermont.
The shooting happened at his daughter’s school, Hubbard Wood Elementary School in Witneka, Illinois. He described that moment in 1988, as “a train ride from hell.” Both of his daughters survived the deadly shooting.
“The younger one was in the kindergarten room where one of the little boys had been shot in the school. She heard him say, ‘I hope I don’t die,’ as the paramedics started working on him,” said Williamson.
He said this experience made him become an advocate for gun violence prevention. When he moved to the state, he got involved with GunSense Vermont. He and his colleagues collaborate with lawmakers to tighten gun laws.
“I made a pledge to myself to do whatever made sense to prevent future tragedies like that from happening,” said Williamson.
Senator Bartuh says the country’s gun problem has only become more pervasive.
“In places no one would have ever suspected 25 years ago: grocery stores, malls, churches…there’s no venue that’s been free of this kind of extreme violence,” said Baruth.
He says in the past six weeks, there have more than two mass shootings a weeks and minimal government action.
“With the exception of some useful executive orders from President Biden, the response has been zero, nothing, zip from the federal government…and I would say our state government needs to be doing more as well,” said Baruth.
As the Senate waits to hear from the House about Bill S.30, he says the stakes are heightened in the pandemic.
“During a pandemic…there have been violent reactions to public health measures like asking someone to where a mask,” said Baruth. “There have been strange conspiracy theories about the vaccines with people attacking vaccination sites and delivering vaccines, so it is not a crazy idea to ban guns in hospitals.”
Gun Sense’s Bob Williamson says it’s also imperative to acknowledge other forms of gun violence such fire-arm suicides and in situations of domestic violence.
“That’s where Vermont’s gun violence problem really accrues.”