Gun Control

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The following is a letter that was sent to several elected officials concerning gun control and infringements on 2nd Amendment rights in our state and country:

January 31, 2013

Dear ______________,

I am a law-abiding citizen and responsible gun owner.

I am saddened by the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, but I believe that efforts to impose new restrictions on me and other lawful and responsible owners like me are misguided. Did you know that violent crime with firearms has declined since the Federal “assault weapons ban” expired in 2004?

Your focus should be on strengthening mental health care and improving the quality of data supporting NICS checks (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). Do NOT pass more gun laws; instead, work to enforce the more than 20,000 gun laws already on the books.

I am your constituent and I vote. Please represent me.

Nicholas Phillips

The following elected officials responded to the above letter.  You can view their individual responses by simply clicking on their name below:

The following is a letter that was sent to Vermont Senator Joe Benning concerning proposed legislation S.94, which addresses the possession of firearms by the mentally ill:

February 27, 2013

Hello Joe,

I was wondering if you could help me to better understand proposed legislation S.94, and perhaps put my mind at ease about some concerns that I have with the bill as it stands.  I have read the text of the bill and can agree with the goal that it seeks to achieve.  We need to make a greater effort to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are not mentally fit to handle them. However, the non-specificity and wording of the bill give me pause.

First, I was hoping that you could explain what exactly a “nonhospitalization order” is for me.  I tried to research this myself, but had no success if finding clarity on what this term refers to.  I ask because the proposed bill would require reporting anyone subjected to a “nonhospitalization order as the result of a mental illness which causes the person to be a danger to him- or herself” to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. As clinically diagnosed depression is classified as a mental illness, it would seem that this bill would thus require that someone suffering from depression who discloses having had suicidal thoughts, contemplated suicide, or exhibited suicidal behaviors to a psychiatric professional to be reported to the NICBCS.  If this is the case, I would hypothesize that this legislation would actually have the adverse effect of deterring such individuals from disclosing this information to a therapist, for fear of having their right to bear arms stripped of them.

It is important that as we address the very real problem of mental health issues as they relate to firearm possession, we are also careful of avoiding unintended consequences.  We need to be sure that we do not create any reason for those who require professional help for depression to not seek it.  This would certainly not be the intended outcome of such a bill, but we need to make sure to use language that will clarify the reporting process and the criteria that one must meet to warrant being reported, and remove any vagueness that would leave room for creative interpretation.

Furthermore, if a mental illness that warrants reporting is not a chronic condition and is known to be treatable with an expectation for full recovery, I believe there should be allowances in this legislation for one to have their right to bear arms restored.  If an individual seeks professional care, receives appropriate therapy, is rehabilitated, and is cleared by a psychiatric professional, I see no reason to consider this person to be a danger to society and he or she should therefore reclaim the right to possess a firearm. As the bill currently stands, I do not see anywhere that this concern is addressed.

I hope you can help me to better understand the provisions of S.94 and the implications that it would have if passed.  I have always enjoyed your willingness to consider the thoughts of your constituents and provide sincere and thoughtful responses, and I look forward to hearing back from you on this issue.  Thank you for your time.

Kind Regards,

Nic Phillips

Vermont Senator Joe Benning responded to the above letter. You can view his response by simply clicking his name below:

The following is a letter that was sent to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy concerning his vote for the assault weapons ban that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines, 10-8, on March 14, 2013:

March 14, 2013

Senator Leahy,

I am writing to inform you that, although it was already very unlikely that I would vote for you next election, you have officially made my decision very easy by voting in favor of the federal assault weapons ban that just passed through committee, 10-8. I will be voting against you, regardless of who your opponent is, and will be actively campaigning to encourage others to do the same.

You clearly DO NOT care what your constituents want, evidenced by the fact that you have openly voted against the interests and desires that we have expressed. This week, 50 Vermonters showed up at the state house to support gun control. However, just weeks ago, approximately 1000 Vermonters stood outside the state house in a snow storm in opposition of such legislation, their actions speaking volumes as to where our state stands on this issue.

Your actions, on the other hand, speak even louder, illustrating your blatant disregard for those who you represent. Your job, Mr. Leahy, is to be OUR voice in Washington, not to play party politics. Your decision to support this unconstitutional legislative effort is deplorable at best, and it is my most sincere hope that it will cost you your job when Vermont’s ballots are next cast.


Nic Phillips

U.S. Senator Patrick has yet to respond to the above letter.  Check back regularly, as responses will be posted as they are received.

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