Urging support for gun waiting period

Day 137.  As I write this it’s been 137 days since my 23-year-old son, Andrew Black, walked into a gun store, bought a handgun, drove home and within hours shot himself.  On day number three we wrote an obituary, suggesting a way to honor Andrew would be to call your local Representative asking for a brief waiting period for gun purchases.  It is heartening to see that such a bill is moving forward at the Statehouse.

I’ve woken up every morning for 137 days and willed myself to get out of bed.  I’ve gone to work.  I’ve driven repeatedly to the Statehouse to meet with countless legislators and elected officials.  I’ve told my son’s story to anyone willing to listen.  I’ve gone to my mailbox each day only to find another card or letter from another family, from both near and far.  Sending their condolences and telling me about their son or brother or father; how Andrew’s story is just like their loved one’s story.

I’ve immersed myself in research and statistics.  I used to think: “Vermont is so safe, we don’t have a gun problem.”  In 2016 there were almost 1200 serious suicide attempts.  The vast majority did not involve a gun and they failed; research shows that 90% of them will never attempt suicide again.  Of the 118 suicide attempts that “succeeded,” more than half used a gun.  Unsurprisingly, when a gun is used it is almost always fatal.  There is no second chance.

I now understand the devastating link between firearm access and the impulsivity of suicide.  Andrew had a crisis.  The same crisis most of us experience in our lives.  Tragically, he impulsively chose the most lethal method to try to make his temporary crisis go away.  He didn’t get a second chance.

Andrew Black is not the reason to pass a gun purchase waiting period bill.  Andrew is just one story.  He’s just the one story you may have heard; most others you never will. There are no statistics recorded on gun deaths and date of purchase.  Much like Andrew’s investigation, they will be quietly noted, signed off by a state’s attorney and never seen again.  The facts regarding Vermont’s alarming rate of suicide are the reason this important legislation should be passed.

Vermonters sent a strong message in November that they want common sense gun legislation.  Research is very clear that waiting periods will save lives.  A waiting period may have saved Andrew’s life.  It will not save everyone, but it may save another mother’s son.

I am grateful that a firearm purchase waiting period bill was taken up and a reasonable compromise passed the Senate.  I now urge the House Leadership to work hard to pass this bill and I urge the Governor to support it.

How many Andrew Blacks should we sacrifice waiting for another session?  How many other mothers are going to have to start counting their days?  It’s day 137.  Tonight, I will lay down and say the same words I’ve said the last 136 nights.  “I made it through another day.”

Alyssa Black


A voice for the animals

Be a voice for the animals, be a voice for the advancement of ethically responsible farmers. A provision in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Rural Agricultural Development bill, S.160, allows us to be that voice by funding farmers to become certified by animal welfare certification programs.  Farmers who uphold high standards of practice deserve support from fellow Vermonters! Help be a part of the conversation in our state that supports increased transparency in the marketplace, helps ensure the success of responsible farmers, and improves the lives of farm animals. Vermont thrives because of agriculture, so let’s make sure that farmers have what they need to succeed and can access existing Working Land grants to help them get certified for their higher animal welfare standards. Help support farmers who represent the Vermont we know and love and urge your representative to support S.160 and ensure funding for welfare-certified farming passes this session.

Katie Ruffe


Time to put an end to gun violence

As I sat down to the first night Passover Seder I attended on campus, I was offered a sheet with four recommended discussion questions. One question stood out to my friends and me: what enslaves you? We laughed over it at the time, at the sometimes-dark Jewish humor of the discussion of how oppressed our ancestors were that always comes up with Passover. Yet, this is a worthwhile question to pose. We sit down yearly to remember the slavery our Jewish ancestors escaped millennia ago. But after another white supremacist with a deadly weapon has perpetrated another hate crime in Poway, California, we must all reflect on what enslaves us now, as a Jewish community and as a country.

I can’t get over the terrible symmetry of this event. Exactly six months after 11 were murdered at a celebration of new life in Pittsburgh, one was murdered and three were injured at a service memorializing the dead at the close of Passover. From birth to death, our community is still terrorized, with little to no action happening in our communities and legislatures to end the cycle of gun violence that enslaves us. After 50 Muslims were murdered in New Zealand, their prime minister immediately banned the weapons used—the response we should all be taking as white supremacy puts marginalized communities at risk here in America.

What is it about our country that enslaves us in this cycle of violence? I have been working in the gun violence prevention movement for more than a year now, and I still do not have the answer. Why are we so enslaved by the idea of weapons of war as a method of self-defense? How can we let so many die without a national response to end the cycle? We pray every year for peace and freedom, yet year after year the plague of gun violence takes more lives. The president tweets that he supports our right to life, but also calls Nazis and white supremacists marching in the streets “fine people.” His pockets are so lined with money from the NRA that he will not consider taking weapons away from those who will take our lives. While freedom of religion and the Second Amendment may both be in our Constitution, our Congress and the gun lobby are prioritizing one, regardless of the deadly consequences. It is time to end our country’s perpetual enslavement that puts every single one of us in danger.   

Emma Helen Bauer


Tips for recycling center

Recently I took the public tour of the Recycling Facility on Avenue C, Industrial Ave, Williston, and here are some of the tips we got.

1. Get ourselves off mailing lists of large catalogs, financial accounts and such. While paper can be recycled, it’s no longer profitable now that China is no longer accepting our recycled paper.

2. Clean out those yogurt/ peanut butter containers, etc. The workers at the facility have to work in a loud, smelly environment, so make it a bit easier for them.

3. Recyclable items smaller than 2” square fall through gaps in the machines into waste section so pill bottles, etc., would save labor by going into our own trash.

4. If we’re including the lids of cans, best to put the lid into can and squash it a bit to keep the lid in, so it will not injure the workers.

5. Yes, the recycling is not all machine. Part of it is a section where workers stand at a conveyer belt sorting out items.

6. No batteries or electronics; they are hazardous to the workers. Bring to a drop-off center.

7. Wow, just for little Vermont, we sure generate a mountain of trash.

Mother Earth is our home.

John Egan