Editor’s note: This letter is by Stu Lindberg, a resident of Cavendish.
To my fellow Vermont citizens,
On Monday, January 13, I presented the following resolution to the Cavendish Select Board. I requested that this resolution be placed as an article on the condition that we discuss and vote on it at the annual town meeting in early March. The Select Board approved my request with the clear understanding that they are not endorsing the resolution.
The resolution reads as follows:
A Resolution for the Defense of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
The township of Cavendish hereby declares itself to be a Second Amendment and Article 16, Constitutional Gun Owner township, as defined herein – The town hereby recognizes the inalienable rights of all persons within its boundaries to keep and bear arms as described by both Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution and the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, including but not limited to: the lawful use of firearms in defense of life, liberty and property and in defense of the State, from all enemies, foreign and domestic; the safe and responsible use of firearms for hunting and utilitarian purposes; and the safe and responsible use of firearms for sporting purposes including Olympic sports. Furthermore, per Marbury v Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), the township hereby declares all federal and state laws and regulations attempting to restrict these rights to be infringements, hence null and void under this resolution.
I have been asked the following questions since making this request of the Select Board:
1. Is this resolution legally binding in the town? No, it is not.
Vermont is known as a “Dillon Rule” state. This means that state law preempts town government ordinance. Specifically 24 V.S.A. § 2295 states: “Except as otherwise provided by law, no town, city or incorporated village, by ordinance, resolution, or other enactment, shall directly regulate hunting, fishing and trapping or the possession, ownership, transportation, transfer, sale, purchase, carrying, licensing, or registration of traps, firearms, ammunition, or components of firearms and ammunition.”
This resolution is a symbolic but emphatic restatement and affirmation of both the Vermont Constitution and the U.S. Constitution which constitute the supreme law of our state and federal republic respectively. It serves as a reminder to our elected representatives in Montpelier and Washington D.C. that they take an oath to uphold not only the Article 16 and the Second Amendment but also every word of both documents. It also reminds us that we are independent citizens and not subjects, serfs or slaves.
2. Is this resolution appropriate for town meeting? Yes, absolutely.
I was born and raised in Vermont, and I actively engage in the public sphere. As a result, in my lifetime, I have witnessed many resolutions debated on the town meeting floor. For example, according to Seven Days newspaper, “In March of 2009, 36 Vermont towns voted to ask the Legislature to not renew the license of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant Seven Days newspaper. Last March, VT Digger reported that 24 towns “voted on climate change resolutions asking the Legislature to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030.” While I may not agree with these and other resolutions, I defend the proponents’ right to make their arguments and to be heard. This is our fundamental First Amendment right.
The tradition of town meetings can be traced back to 504 B.C. in ancient Athens (the birthplace of direct democracy). History tells us that the citizens of this city-state debated all manner of concerns, both trivial and weighty. While the Athenians did not embrace individual liberties as we do in the United States, they had a robust tradition of holding their leaders accountable for bad decisions that damaged the body politic.
We exercise the same tradition at our town meetings across Vermont. We come together to discuss the smallest details of how our tax dollars are being spent, as well as to debate the larger issues of the day over which we may exercise but little control. I have seen more wisdom spoken on the town meeting floor than I have ever heard come out of the halls of power in Montpelier and Washington D.C. If the topics of climate change and anti-nuclear activism are appropriate for Town Meeting Day, then so is the desire to affirm our constitutional rights as enshrined by Article 16 and the Second Amendment.
I hope to see all of you on Town Meeting Day. It is a proud Vermont tradition that we must celebrate.
Your Friend in Liberty,