MONTPELIER -- For months, Gov. Peter Shumlin has been calling for a "50-state solution" to gun violence, saying Congress needs to pass any new legislation to address firearms possession and that Vermont should not try to go it alone.
A week after the U.S. Senate defeated legislation calling for expanded background checks for some gun buyers, making clear that the nation’s gun laws are likely to remain without major changes for the foreseeable future, Shumlin on Thursday said his position has not changed.
"In my view, if you don’t have a 50-state solution, people who should not have guns will buy them where they can get them," Shumlin, a Democrat, said at his weekly news conference.
Shumlin called recent mass shootings of people in Colorado, Connecticut and elsewhere "horrific," but said, "You’re not going to solve it; you’re just doing feel-good (legislation)" when states pass their own gun laws.
Other states have seen movement on the issue since December, when 26 people, including 20 first-graders, were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Connecticut and New York have passed new laws banning sales of some assault weapons, limiting the size of ammunition clips, adding new safeguards against acquisition of firearms by people with serious mental illness, and containing other provisions. Legislation is pending in several other states.
Shumlin, a hunter, argued Thursday, as he has repeatedly since the Newtown shootings, that Vermont is different from other parts of the country in how people use and regard firearms.
Vermonters own guns to "manage our natural resources, hunt and use them for sport," he said. "If the rest of the nation dealt with guns the way Vermonters do, we wouldn’t be facing the challenge we’re facing," he said.
Asked if Vermont is somehow immune from the possibility of a mass shooting, Shumlin said, "I’m not going to speculate or get into a discussion of something horrific happening in Vermont. I think that only leads to escalating the environment that we live in in this nation."
The governor’s answer did not sit well with Bob Williamson, a member of the pro-gun-control group Gun Sense Vermont. "We’re fooling ourselves if we think it can’t happen here," he said.
Vermont currently has among the laxest gun laws in the country -- Williamson noted it is the only state that does not bar convicted felons from possessing guns -- and the state is sometimes cited by law enforcement officials in metropolitan areas like Boston and New York as a source for guns used in crimes there.
Shumlin said those concerns also would not sway him.
"I certainly am not shrugging my shoulders," the governor said. "What I’m saying is that if all 50 states don’t have the same laws, people who shouldn’t have guns are going to get guns, and that’s just the truth."