Report from Montpelier

Jessica Brumsted

By Rep. Jessica Brumsted

After the horrible events that happened last week in Florida, I couldn’t help but write about my frustration in wanting to do more to protect our children’s right to feel safe at school.

We need to come together and do something. It almost happened here in Vermont except for a tip from a citizen and excellent work by law enforcement.

Here is an excerpt from an email all parents and students at Champlain Valley Union High School received from our principal, Adam Bunting:

“I have had many emails from students and parents about the heartbreak we all feel for our national community this week. Many have seen the report that there have been 290 school shootings since data began to be collected in 2013. While I am about to say that we are taking steps to increase our security, I need to state the obvious: We have a national problem that we can no longer ignore.

“This week our Champlain Valley School District leadership team met with Rob Evans, Vermont’s school safety liaison officer, and began the process of a security audit. Rob said many important things that will lead to tighter security at CVU, but his most compelling was his urging that nothing is more important than the meaningful relationships we build with our students. Those connections, Rob offered, are as important as the vigilance we need to have in our hallways and classrooms.

Please take care of yourself and each other this weekend.”

I ran for office to make a difference and to stand up for what is right. I have four children who have been educated in Vermont’s public school system. My youngest is a senior in high school. Students in his classes worry about loud noises in the hallways, or out-of-the-ordinary events in the building. When I was a high school student, a big test in algebra, or the worry that two boys were going to fight over a girl at recess, made my heart race, not that someone might walk into my school with an AR-15, pull a fire alarm, and start shooting at me.

I believe a three-pronged legislative effort that is more of a public health approach might help.

First, we need stronger gun-violence protection laws. No one in Montpelier is supportive of eroding our Second Amendment right, but why does anyone need an automatic rifle or bump stocks? Take a look at and support S.6, S.221, H.422, H.151, H.876 — all important pieces of legislation stalled in our House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

We need to look toward gun safety and reducing gun violence. Efforts to make guns safer with trigger locks and safe storage, plus real limits on access to guns for people who are most likely to misuse them, should be our immediate focus.

Second, we must improve our mental health systems: Expand access to inpatient beds in our hospitals for those with significant mental illness, coordinate better partnerships between community-based services, the designated agencies and the state mental health system, expand the forensic unit, and most importantly support families who are dealing with mental illness.

Third, as the CVU principal noted above, it might be time to look at whether more security in our schools could help.

I believe something is changing. Students are scared and angry, and they are standing up and protesting for what is right with signs that read, “Protect us, not your guns.” Shouldn’t we all take this national student effort seriously?

Support for the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with keeping guns away from dangerous people. Let us stop fighting about the Second Amendment and start doing something to keep our children safe.

Democrat Jessica Brumsted represents Shelburne and St. George in the Vermont House of Representatives.

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