Sen. Joe Benning: Guns and sense

Editor’s note: This commentary is by state Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia.

To all demanding legislation against gun violence: you are not alone in your concerns. My wife is a teacher and every work day brings yet another opportunity for some disgruntled parent or alienated/depressed/psychotic student to cause mayhem in her school. I am fully cognizant that such people exist here. But the cry to “DO SOMETHING!” should not result in solutions that fail to address the mentally deranged mind behind the trigger.

Joe Benning

Vermont state Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia

I’ve heard from many Vermonters demanding universal background checks, yet virtually every mass shooting we’ve had in this country has involved a shooter who passed a background check. This includes the Nevada concert shooter, the Florida school shooter, the South Carolina church shooter, and the Vermont teenager who thankfully was intercepted. Vermont also had Jody Herring, who killed three family members and a social worker with a hunting rifle she stole from someone else. Universal background checks do little to curtail the slaughter we are seeing.

But universal background checks will suddenly require tens of thousands of law-abiding Vermonters to pay money to demonstrate that they are entitled to what is explicitly listed as a constitutional right. This alienates those who rightfully see such attempts as an incremental erosion of a right they cherish.

I’ve also heard from many demanding specific weapons bans. But mass killings in this country have involved airliners, cooking pots, a truck full of fertilizer, pistols, hunting rifles, “military style” weapons and even a semi-truck. Legislation designed to restrict a given inanimate object may leave some feeling temporarily like they have “done something,” but constantly trying to legislate against a future killers’ weapon of choice with after-the-fact legislation is a race we cannot win. And gun owners rightfully react to such gun legislation as an incremental step toward eventual elimination of their constitutional right. We need to get to the root of the problem.

Polarizing debate and passionate finger pointing only divert us from addressing the root of the problem. But I too believe there is “something” that should be done. In the short term the interception of the teenager here in Vermont gives me hope that we can find common ground. Within constitutional parameters, we must give police the tools they need to intercede when a person has: a.) made clear their intent to cause harm and b.) taken steps to carry out that intent. It worked in Fair Haven and will work everywhere else if all of us learn to recognize threats and step forward to say so. This, to me, is common sense that makes sense, and that has a greater probability of actually solving the immediate problem.

Long term prevention requires us to discuss a much harder systemic issue. Our schools are no longer just educational institutions in the traditional sense. We have teachers teaching today who started in community supported one room school houses, who are suddenly practicing lock-down drills while worrying about how one of their students may become the reason those drills are necessary. Teachers are uniquely positioned to identify, and provide intervention for, children at risk of becoming a danger to society. If we expect them to teach and also struggle with the weight of society’s ills, then we must provide them appropriate support, assistance and protection when they alert us to obvious signs of trouble. This discussion must continue in earnest.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/todos and Joe Benning

42 thoughts on “Sen. Joe Benning: Guns and sense

  1. The cigarette lobby fought for years to keep public policy away from their core business. I don’t recall them ever using the NRA’s logic by saying, “cigarettes don’t cause cancer, lighting them up and smoking them does.” If they had, they would likely still be killing tens of thousands of addicted smokers every year.

    That said, my solution is to pass “bullet control laws.” Such laws would enable people to buy all the guns they want, but after a certain minimal amount (one clip or magazine per weapon per year?), the tax would be $1000 per bullet. If you buy and use them at a gun range under supervision, the tax would not be levied.

    After all, guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.

  2. Sen. Joe Benning we have enough gun laws in Vermont. Your commentary is on the money.

    Well I do not see any resin to pass Dick Sears Bill, no one should be aloud to confiscate any ones guns with out due presses of law.

    We are required to go through a background check before we buy a gun.

    The Armalite Rifle, AR 15 is a 22 Cal. (.223, 5.56×45) semiautomatic rifle. The AR15 in not an assault rifle. Assault rifles are fully automatic.

    It is time for VT to harden all the schools in the state. Do away with gun free zones, allowing schools to have Armed Personal on school grounds. That makes common scene.

    The problem as I see it is that you will not ever be able to outlaw outlaws. You can not legislate morality. You can pass all the laws in the world and you will not affect one criminal or change their propensity to brake the law.

    Drugs have been against the law forever and how is that working out?

  3. Too bad Senator Benning isn’t the governor instead of that unwavering conservative rock gov. Scott.
    He has a better understanding of the U S Constitution and Article 16 and natural civil rights that existed before either were put down on paper,ah but as my grandfather used to say if wishes were fishes.

  4. What stopped the Parkland shooting? Cruz went to the second floor and tried to shoot fleeing students. However, hurricane proof glass was used and they didn’t shatter. Cruz then put down his gun and ran.
    We go to courthouses, federal buildings, to airports. There we go through metal detectors, identification checks and guards. At Parkland Cruz was banned from campus, was seen before he reached the school but was allowed to walk into an unlocked door. Why can’t our schools have protection like our federal buildings?
    Sure ban “assault rifles.” New York State passed the SAFE Act. After two years of court battles, New York reluctantly confessed that only 4% of the guns were ever registered.

  5. Washington State passed Universal Background Checks in 2014. To date, one person has been charged under the law. He confessed to police that he had sold a gun. Worse, he’s disappeared and the gun is likely the in the ocean. Last year proponents of UBC claimed that 50 people were denied guns under the program. That’s out of 18,000 private sales. Call it 0.2%. However, NONE of the 50 people were charged, much less convicted.

  6. Thank you Senator Benning for your common sense on this issue.
    One thing VT CAN do on this issue, is report the dangerously mentally ill to the FBI NCICS (background check) system. Vermont is one of the states that shockingly does NOT report. I’ll bet Florida doesn’t either. Think about how that would have effected recent events!

  7. “I am told I am my own king, my own God, my own reality.
    I can be a male today, a female tomorrow and you gladly oblige me.
    Today I want to be a killer. Who are you to deny me?
    Why are you surprised?
    You tell me murder in the womb is a choice.
    Why cry when I chose murder outside the womb?
    Why are you surprised?
    Spare me your weep and woe.
    You reap what you sow.”

  8. From comments I ran across, very pertinent to this matter.
    1) In the US in 2016, there were 374 killings by those using a rifle; 1604 killings by knife or cutting instrument; thousands killed by doctors (malpractice); tens of thousands killed by vehicles and hundreds of thousands killed by abortion. For Pete’s sake let’s ban those dangerously deadly rifles!

    2) with any point of entry having armed security. The high tuition paying parents demand that level of security. We can fix this issue, and it is not a long slow process of gun confiscation that is going to effect any level of safety in our lifetime. Rim the schools with fencing to a single or two points of entry. Just like secure government buildings. Armed people at the entrance and within the school in case of breach. No longer a soft target.

    3) “we must do something” in liberal lingo means we must have more government and more laws.
    How about if “we” start raising respectful and well parented children, and not depend on the government schools to raise them. Schools are there for education, not for doing the job of the parents.

    4) Not only in this case but the Boston bombers, the Fort Hood shooter, the Texas Church shooter, and I’m sure others. Both, Jared Loughner and the Va Tech shooter were known to be batsh*t crazy but no one (maybe because of the privacy laws instituted under Clinton), thought they should be evaluated.

    These all could have been avoided.

    • Your number “3” is exactly right! If more parents acted like parents, I firmly believe we would not have the problems we have today. Kids need to be taught right from wrong, good from bad, at home.

  9. I am so sick of the Liberal Media constantly fanning the flames for gun control, but not insane control. The media is from the major liberal cities. It’s disinformation, fake news. They have no values, just emotional crapology thinking it’s headlines.

    I’ve heard some FL students emotionally burst out their grief for AR-15 control. What a limited uninformed position. They desire to march. BUT, they don’t have a clue about reality, it’s attention getting.

    In countries where gun control is paramount, many killing have been on the increase: Australia, England and Europe countries. That’s the outcome, unlearned.

    NRA is under attack by people unknowing of their agenda, again emotional. Yet the NRA does more to promote safety. I belong.

    When I drove from VT to AL in November, VT had 52 road accident deaths, VA had 750. Cars are a bigger killer. Heavily gun law controlled Chicago had 600+ in last November, Google it. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, by whatever means. Cars aren’t emotional, so don’t consider.

    Can’t imagine the GOV schools will protect the kids. Have to do it ourselves, vote them out or fire them

  10. How arrogant are we to believe that we are right and all the other nations of the world with strict gun laws and much lower death numbers are wrong. Weapons of war like the AR15 have no place in a civilized society

    • @ Philip

      I hate to disagree with the main stream media and some uneducated politicians however the AR 15 is not by definition of function,a weapon of war.
      It is a semi automatic rifle than other than appearance is function wise identical to any other semi automatic hunting rifle.
      I think you meant to say M 16 or M 4 rifle is a weapon of war, not AR 15 if you were being factual.

    • There is no legitimacy in attempting to compare nations which do not constitutionally recognize the unalienable right of self-defense with the United States which does recognize that right. You are free in this country to determine if you wish to take steps to protect yourself and your family or not, and I will not begrudge you your decision if you wish to put the safety of yourself and your family completely in others hands. I choose not to, and you do not however have the right to determine what is suitable for me to use to defend myself and my family.

      Just how foolish are we to think that we live in a civilized society, when there is no shortage of people who are intent on causing death to completely innocent people? Are we really naive enough to think that the cause of all these problems are inanimate objects, as opposed to anything else like terrorism and mental illness?

      Estimates are that there are over 30 Million AR-15 style rifles in this country – and while some ridiculously small percentage are used by crazed and sick individuals to do evil, the vast, over-whelming percentage are NOT used that way.

      The AR-1 is nothing more than a semi-automatic firearm, with semi-automatics being ubiquitous. And just so you know: The AR-15 is *THE* preferred firearm for most competitive shooting matches due to its ergonomics and low recoil.

      There is an old adage: People fear what they do not understand, and this is absolutely true with Firearms.

      • AR15s have extended magazines. Most hunting semi-automatics have four round magazines. Knives and other weapons mentioned do not have the capacity to kill so many people. Box cutters and fertilizer are not typical examples.

        • Curtis: LOTS of firearms accept extended magazines, but please read Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution. It does not mention “hunting” at all, it says “defence”. While hunting in Vermont is also Constitutionally protected, that is outlined in §67. Please do not confuse my right to defend myself with hunting.
          Cars can kill multiple people. Bombs can kill multiple people. Fires can kill people. Bad people are obviously coming at innocent people with increasing firepower, and you want me to be limited in how many rounds can fit in a magazine? Do you have any idea how fast a magazine change can be done? When you arbitrarily pick the number which you find acceptable, are you then going to tell me that I cannot have more than one magazine? Do you really think that with 100s of millions of magazines out there, bad people will obey a silly restriction on how many bullets they can have in a magazine the next time they do a heinous and unconscionable act?

  11. Everything you say is absolutely true, Joe. But we must not let that be a reason for inaction.

    Perhaps Dick Sears’ bill on emergency removal of firearms in a domestic violence setting could be amended to include persons threatening violence or whose behavior indicates a serious risk of violence. Of course, police would need to show a strong case for an emergency removal order. And a right to a hearing would need to be guaranteed. But this might be on reasonable step.

  12. I really don’t know what or why the Liberals keep saying “we need to close the gun shows loophole” for ownership clearance. Very time I’ve bought, local dealers and gun shows, I had to get “approved” by the Gov. Who isn’t? That’s a liberal farce to attract the sheeple and get headlines.

    Forgot to comment previously, great article, Sen Benning is spot on an appreciate common sense people from the Kingdom.

    • @ Tom Chase

      The term used by the left,Gun Show Loophole is a misnomer,what they want is a back round check for private party sales,All Sales.
      How would that go over when applied to other property perhaps automobiles,chainsaws,ect. ,especially when said property is a civil right

      • You are correct. Mostly you hear about Gun Shows. I acknowledge in the underlining (subliminal aspect, between the lines) control does include all facets. Vt is the safest for gun killings, but is a liberal state wherein outside money financing outside groups want to control VT’s basic right of hunting, target and now protection. George Soros’s money is behind much of this. What is his aim, desires for this country? He has a sordid history. Is it to disarm the country wherein the third world order can take over? With all the guns in private position, it’ll never happen. But through dumb legislators (unlike Sen Benning & Bob Frenier–both Kingdom based) Gun Control is their attention getting means. The Fed Gov completely lost it.

        The second amendment is under attack.

  13. I was going to mention the points that C. Henry did and some points in the following comments, all great. Some points perhaps not addressed:
    1) The FBI fell flat on their faces with the data presented to them. Trump investigation time instead?
    2) A known record of violence
    3) Possible the killer had Alzheimers , a brain disorder, no evaluation. Had many contacts by officials.
    4) Influenced by the Hollywood films and violence portrayed.
    5) His parent “thought” they had the only key to the locked gun safe—duh!
    6) Other gun violence school happenings may have influenced him (as reported by others Copy Kat)
    7) Some think they get public exposure which they think is a solution to their life, being important.
    8) The shooter was probably regimented by the school system to follow set scholastic procedures, a waste of time, his talents, aptitude and interest possibly was elsewhere, dullsville. I’m sure other avenues could have been in the system. When I went to HS, I had that choice.

    Noted that the HS kids had emotional outbursts to eliminate the AK-15. Shows the little knowledge, emotional and understandable. But millions of people have rights and enjoy their arms and protected by the 2nd Amendment. I don’t want to have my guns confiscated by the emotional situation. Hope Trump stands stead fast. Politicians will fall all over themselves because it will make the voters think “I’m caring”. BULL.

    Only a few mental cases cause the problems, why does the whole have to suffer? If my kid was killed, I’d still feel the same about my position of guns stated herein. Many “officials” screwed up and should share the blame and be dismissed. BUT the emotional kids don’t evaluate that. The liberal media strokes the fires.

    As C. Henry states, why not security mechanisms at the doors of a school and locked doors with surveillance? Simple and that should have taken place after Conn shooting and others. Mentioned was all the places that have normal security. Try to take a gun thru the TSA at airports. BUT the Liberal administrators and teachers feel if they did so, it would traumatize the kids—-DUH! What’s more traumatic??? Have to re-educate the school system people.

    Given the conditions currently not to be changed, it will happen again. Good time to have armed volunteers in the public areas (roads) outside the schools on patrol. This would be similar to the ROLLING THUNDER bikers and others given the schools are a target. They parade at veterans affairs and holidays. Needs to be presented. Seeing them would stop ny one.

    Also need immediate public hanging. No expensive jail time (30 years). An example to those that wouldn’t want that notoriety. Common Sense. Get lawyers out of the way.

    Good time to have your kid home schooled.

    My two cents.

  14. Very well said, Senator Benning. Guns don’t shoot themselves, people do. We need to try to find the root of what’s causing this problem and fix it. Being aware of the people around us who are struggling with issues, finding a way to help (or stop) them is important. I also think we need to look at the video games, movies, music, tv shows that desensitize all of us, and make many feel conflict means fight, and the gun does it fastest. Society needs to go back to learning how to interact with each other without violence. They need to take less offense at other’s opinions, etc, and learn tolerance again. We must start back in the sandbox learning to live together, help each other, and not hurt each other. Although what I’m saying sound off the subject I believe it has to do with the beginning of the mess. Again, thank you for a very clearly said, rational essay.

  15. So all the school shootings have two things in common. First schools are soft targets a ( gun free zone) . Secondly all the perpetrators are “mentally defective” and these perpetrators, were known
    to have reported problems or known to have problems by family or friends but nothing was done !!

    So we have security at banks, airports and body guards for the Elite in Hollywood or the best of all New Yorks, Michael Bloomberg ( Hypocrite ) …………… But ” No Security ” in our schools .

    Update the NICS system and we have plenty of X Military ( Heros ) willing to guard our schools ,
    then these nut jobs will think twice before they try there evil .

  16. Thank You Joe,
    That is the smartest and most direct response I have heard from Anyone!!!!
    I am a staunch supporter of gun rights and I fully agree that if anyone TRULY wants to kill them they will find a way to do it! Personally I would like to see Law Enforcement be able to do more as well as possibly having teachers who are willing to be trained also have the capability of concealed carry in the schools if need be! I know there are those who would differ on that but I would rather have my children being protected by someone with a gun rather than have them defenseless and the only thing that they can do is to try desperately to shield the kids!!! I really believe that anyone who is Charged with a violent crime or is certifiably mentally unstable should be immediately placed in the list of persons unable to buy a gun. I also believe that ALL State & Federal Agencies need to work more closely together to help with this problem as well as to teach our children that it is OK to step up and say something of they are concerned about someone without worry of being ridiculed for it !!!!!!!
    As a gun owner and hunter myself I don’t believe gun control or more laws to take away guns will solve anything but BETTER ENFORCEMENT can do so much !!!!!
    Great Job Joe and hope to see you soon!!!

  17. I wouldn’t say that things have worked out. Yes, step one was accomplished; congratulations to the Police Dept. for their good work. But that’s just preparation for the ACLU stage of the process. Lots of luck.

  18. Self defense is among the most basic of rights. If law restricts the capacity of the law abiding legally to posses for their own defense what their attacker will illegally have to perpetrate his attack, the right to defend oneself becomes meaningless. Our population grows and, assuming about the same percentage of dangerously deranged people, their numbers also increase. Freedom has its costs – this is not a problem that can be eliminated in a free society, only attenuated. A random distribution of people with the means to defend themselves and the rest of us against their actions benefits everyone.

  19. As usual you are a voice of reason Joe. This has not been talked about much and that is the correlation of gun free zones and tragedies world wide and here at home. Before 1999 I can remember only 1 Campus shooter in Texas. Since gun free zones have been created they have become the target zones. If all the existing laws are enforced it will go a long way in stopping these events.
    That being said we need to find ways to help these people with out givimg them halluinogeic / depression causing drugs and putting them back on thr streets.

  20. Sen. Joe Benning has written the most reasoned response of the subject I’ve read in some time,he is not my senator however I wish he was.

  21. Well said senator Benning. I have been racking my brain and writing testimony for the hearings on Thursday. I will elaborate on this in committee but a simplistic response is this
    We in the pro gun community have been saying this for more years than I can remember. Why don’t we enforce the laws that are already there instead of coming up with new laws. Vermont law enforcement did just that last week and they did an excellent job doing it. It seems that our law enforcement does a better job than the FBI. Hel I remember last eek when the Chief said we have ways to do it now.
    Ed Cutler
    Gun Owners of Vermont

    • Absolutely correct. Thank you Mr Cutler. It addition, we must begin the process of educating those young people who were not given proper gun handling training when they were young. Too many idiotic movies, video games, television programs, and music videos have convinced many that the first response to any problem is to pull a gun.
      I have long wondered if the average American has just become too damned dumb and too lacking in common sense to be trusted with a firearm. I have concluded that the ones in the aforementioned categories represent only a tiny fraction of the gun owners in this country. We need to enforce laws to weed them out and educate the rest.

      • Dave we have a number of different programs in this state to teach youths in proper firearms training. They include Hunter safety, The Appleseed program, the Keho camp, A lot of the F&G clubs have Jr marksmanship programs, The Boy Scouts have a program, parents teaching there kids and dozens of others. By the way I do not know if you know this but in Vermont accidental shooting are almost unheard of. This is because we have a 230 year history of firearms ownership. We should all be proud of that.

        • Thank you Ed, much appreciate all you do. This isn’t a lost legal venture and right. I went hunting with my father at 10. He gave me a single shot .22. It was great to get into the woods and learn about the geography, birds, animals, various tree types, where deer liked to traverse and etc. It was a great learning nature basic which I still maintain some 70 years later. Hopefully I instilled the same into my kids (now about 50), and their kids.

          Wonderful world out there if opportunities are not taken away via the Liberalism of this country.

          PS. I’m in Townshend.

          • Thank you for the fine words Tom I also have grown up shooting since I was a little one. We used to plink all the time which taught me to be a better shoot. I became a world class target shooter and actually still hold the record for having the highest score in ultra long range pistol shooting. The range was 100 to 400 yards.

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