Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s hopeful that Congress will pass a comprehensive package of gun control restrictions including ban the sale of semi automatic assault weapons, closing the gun show loophole for background checks and limiting the capacity of gun magazines.
As the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Leahy will play a key role in Congress’s debate over gun control legislation.
In a speech at Georgetown University, Leahy said his committee will hold hearings later this month to address a wide range of factors that contribute to a culture of violence in this country.
"Can we pass a law that will stop all gun violence? No," said Leahy. "But the fact that we can’t do something with perfection doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything. There are things we should do, these large magazines, the assault weapons the gun show loopholes of course those have to be addressed."
And Leahy drew upon some of Vermont’s gun laws to make his point.
"About the only gun law we have in Vermont is during deer season if you have a semi automatic you can’t have more than 6 rounds in it," said Leahy. "I mean really as a nation say we’re going to be more protective of the deer than we are of our children? I think not."
Leahy says he’s optimistic that Congress will pass legislation addressing some of his concerns.
"I have a track record of getting legislation passed. There are some who say nothing will pass I disagree with that."
Governor Peter Shumlin wasn’t available to talk about Leahy’s approach or a similar plan outlined by President Obama. Instead, he issued a brief statement supporting a federal approach to this issue and the statement said Shumlin "supports the President’s recommendations."
Shumlin’s opposition to any new state gun restrictions is in stark contrast to several other governors in the region including New York governor Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.
Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says it’s clear that this issue is not a top priority for Shumlin.
"It’s particularly noticeable because on other issues Governor Shumlin has got out in front of other governors. On the issue of marriage equality when he was a legislator, on the issue of health care reform he’s been ahead of some of the governors of neighboring states," said Davis. "So Shumlin is hanging back which is an unusual political strategy for him on a lot of issues."
And Davis thinks there’s a practical reason for Shumlin’s approach to the gun issue.
"Shumlin sees the gun issue as distracting Legislative and public attention from what he would like to emphasize as his major priorities for the Legislative session."
Davis says he would not be surprised if some of Shumlin’s strongest supporters are disappointed by the governor’s position on this issue.