Sports & Outdoors Statehouse

Attempting to See Behind the Government Curtains in Vermont

In the ongoing challenge to H.610 it became obvious that the gun control advocates were quite well informed as to how the bill was evolving through the constant series of new drafts to the bill, as the supporters of the bill continued to encounter testimony that pointed out the deficiencies and lack of “due process” rights for gun owners.

On January 23rd the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs took the very unusual action of filing a Public  Records Request with the House Judiciary Committee to view communications between the committee members and in particular the supporters of H.610 and H.600.  

Communications have been going back and forth since the initial PRR filing.  On Tuesday, February 25, Chris  Bradley, Tim Meehan and Evan Hughes met with the lawyer of the Legislative Council assigned to the VTFSC PRR.

We were informed that 18,890 files had been identified as falling with the search perimeters specified by the PRR.

In an attempt to achieve a faster processing of the PRR, it was agreed to more narrowly define the identification word perimeters and focus first on the communications of Judiciary Committee Chair Maxine Grad and Committee Ranking  Member Martin LaLonde.  Grad and LaLonde are the sponsors of H.610.

Interestingly, between the initial PRR filing of January 23 and the meeting of February 25 an E-mail was published  with an updated draft of H.610.  But, the E-mail contained an E-mail string that documented what the gun rights  groups have suspected all along:  that the gun control supporters of H.610 were provided involvement and review  access that from which the gun rights were excluded.

This explained how the gun control advocates came into the hearings at which a new draft was being presented with testimony and exhibits tailored to the new draft, which the gun rights representatives were just then being presented.

The process of attempting to have access to the PRR records is a complex journey.

The Seven Magazine article of this week on what that media outlet is encountering with the City of Burlington is  similar to what the VTFSC encountered in a PRR with the City over several gun control ordinances the City was  attempting to enact several years ago.

That PRR campaign required 20 trips to Burlington City Hall by Chris Bradley and Evan Hughes to view and make  thumb drive copies of the documents requested in the PRR documents.  As required, the City provided a Vaughn Index,  a list of the documents it would not disclose, which was over 600 documents withheld.

These were ordinances by which gun owners could be arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, fined and their property seized,   Yet, the City withheld over 600 hundred documents about how these gun control ordinances ballot issues were crafted.

When the charter change bills for the City gun ordinances were before the House Government Operations Committee  the VTFSC entered the Vaughn Index as an exhibit and it made an important impression and the City was not granted  the gun control charter changes being sought.

Since the VTFSC PRR with the City of Burlington the Vermont AG has issued an opinion that the government entity can charge for allowing the PRR party to take a photo or copy of the requested copy of the documents, just as if the government were making a copy.  This makes it much more expensive for the PRR party to make electronic copies.

Be it the Federation’s Public Records Request with the City of Burlington or with the House Judiciary Committee, the  more the government won’t disclose, or tries to conceal, the worse it makes them look. They do not grasp this fact.

The Seven Days Article: “Redacted: How the City of Burlington Keeps the Public in the Dark” can be viewed below:

“Municipalities can do these redactions, but [the law] doesn’t require them,” he added. “The more they hide this information, the guiltier they look.”

Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs

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