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Let them speak

Town Meetings can be short, long, dull, frustrating or filled with excitement depending on your viewpoint. However, one thing about Town Meeting Day is that it is for everyone. It is a day for citizens to have their voices heard. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for everyone in Warren this year.

Late on Tuesday evening, March 6, as Warren’s Town Meeting was winding down, Dave Sellers asked for a vote from the residents still in attendance – many had already left for the complementary dinner – to send a note to Vermont’s congressional delegation seeking an assault weapon ban.

His proposal is nothing out of the ordinary given that gun reform is a particularly hot issue currently in light of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, as was immigration last year when many towns passed nonbinding motions against President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim- majority countries.

Bill Robinson, who heads the local chapter of Gun Owners of Vermont, asked to speak and he began to present his side of the argument. Robinson explained his position that guns are not the primary cause of mass shootings, a very common argument, and he advocated for increased focus on other societal issues such as mental health. His words were neither inflammatory nor incendiary.

That’s all he was allowed to say because as he presented his case against sending the note to our congressional delegation, someone in attendance called the question, which was allowed, and discussion was ended. The motion passed.

Procedurally, what happened was legal. But we take issue with the fact that Robinson was silenced for being in the minority at Warren’s Town Meeting. Town Meetings can take up an inordinate amount of time and undoubtedly things are said that not everyone agrees with, but almost no one is forced to stop talking.

The Valley Reporter favors sensible gun reform and sensible ownership regulations. However, even in this small office there are many issues about which staff members disagree and we find immense amount of value in hearing the other side of every argument including gun control and the Second Amendment. That’s called respect.

Understood that a motion to cut off debate was properly made and seconded at Warren’s Town Meeting. Nonetheless, Robinson should have been allowed to speak and afforded that respect as a member of his community.

– CLK

The Valley Reporter - serving Vermont's Mad River Valley since 1971