This article by Bruce Parker originally published April 7, 2016, on Watchdog.org.
Gun rights advocates in Vermont say Hillary Clinton’s comment about guns used in New York crimes is not only wrong, but a malicious lie.
When Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told New York state lawmakers this week that criminals get their guns from Vermont, she may have forgotten to check her facts first.
The knock against the Green Mountain State doesn’t jibe with federal gun trace statistics, and is drawing harsh criticism from leading sportsmen’s groups.
“This is an out-and-out lie — I can’t state it any more clearly,” said Chris Bradley, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. “She’s desperate to try to get to the left of Mr. Sanders, and she perceives he’s weak on guns when in fact he’s pretty consistent.”
Bradley said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is the authority on tracing guns to their state of origin, and that BAFTE statistics show Vermont is not a major source of guns to any other state. Bradley added that Clinton’s comments, however misguided, tarnish Vermont’s image.
“Do we really need this sort of negative publicity for a state that’s so heavily reliant on tourism? This is perpetuating a falsehood,” he said.
Eddie Garcia, founder of the Vermont Citizens Defense League, also expressed outraged over Clinton’s comments.
“She knows it’s not true. It’s 0.7 percent of crime guns in New York that are traced back to Vermont,” Garcia said, citing BATFE data. “The New York primaries are coming up, her lead over Bernie Sanders has been cut in half, and she’s taking it out on my state and defaming us.”
Politico reported that Clinton was attending a private meeting in Albany, New York, when she implied that Vermont was responsible for some New York gun crimes. The comments appeared to open a new attack on Sanders, whom Clinton has criticized for not agreeing with her view that gun manufacturers should be held liable for crimes committed with guns.
According to BAFTE trace data, New York traced 4,585 guns to their state of origin in 2014. Of that number, 1,397 guns were traced to New York itself. Only 55 guns, or 0.7 percent, came from Vermont. Between 2006 and 2012, BATFE traced no New York guns back to Vermont.
Bradley said Clinton misses another point — namely, what trace data indicates.
“Trace guns do not always indicate a gun recovered in a crime. Just because it was traced back, it doesn’t mean a crime had been committed,” he said. He added that all firearms obtained by police — even legally owned firearms — are included in trace statistics.
Despite Clinton’s insinuations, Vermont is the safest state in the nation according to FBI statistics. In 2013, Vermont had 115 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, well below the national average of 368 violent crimes for every 100,000 people. In 2010, the state’s gun murder rate per 100,000 people was 0.3 percent — the lowest in the nation.
Garcia said Vermont’s gun rights advocates are constantly debunking misinformation spread by anti-gun groups.
“We did it with Everytown for Gun Safety when they libeled Vermont with a national campaign on social media saying criminals were flocking to Vermont to buy guns online” he said. Garcia was referring to a January 2015 Everytown report that resulted in a defamation lawsuit and an investigation by the Vermont Office of Attorney General.
“And she’s dragging this out again and she’s saying it anyway. How many times do we have to shoot this falsehood in the head? Is it a zombie? Do we have to cut off its head and shrink it? It’s been shown false time and time again.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin — a pledged Clinton superdelegate — also responded to Clinton’s comments. “You’d have a hard time convincing Vermonters that New York’s crime problems are coming from Vermont,” he said this week in Montpelier.