Reasonable things to ask in trade for safer Vermont
To the Editor,
Like many of my fellow veterans I once enjoyed having a bunch of tax-free deployment money sitting in my bank account. I went out and bought a fancy military style rifle. I went all out too; 7.62 mm, semi-automatic, all the attachments, 20-round capacity magazines. Truth be told, that rifle is head and shoulders better than the rifle I carried in Iraq.
The other foolish thing that I did with my money was to buy a motorcycle. Now this may seem off topic but please bear with me. If you know anything about returning combat veterans, you’ll understand that the two do seem to go hand in hand. In any case I couldn’t just buy it and ride it off.
First, I entered my driver’s license information and I took the four-hour Vermont motorcycle awareness program training course. Once that was done, I could practice, only in state, only during daylight hours and with no passengers. After a couple of months, I took a written exam, answered a minimum 20 out of 25 multiple choice questions correctly and was eligible to take a skills test. I was than evaluated for competency on four skill maneuvers, graded by a DMV examiner. After an anxiety-filled hour or so, I completed the tasks successfully and proudly went on to claim the letter “M”on my license that showed proof that in the eyes of the state, I could be trusted to safely operate that motorcycle until proven otherwise.
And to me, that seemed reasonable, tedious yes, irritating, and time consuming, absolutely. But, implicit in each step was the understanding of what that step represented. It represented the attempt to prevent riders who were a danger to themselves or to others from operating a machine that had the potential to cause great harm. Now if you ever saw me riding it, you would perhaps be forgiven for thinking that this machine may have fallen into the wrong hands. I certainly see unsafe and illegal acts by bikers on the highway often enough. The screens and filters in place for public safety are not perfect, but it would be foolish to think that we would be better off without them. The only people who I can see benefiting from their removal would be those who would not pass through the filter.
Now I’d like to circle back to the matter of that rifle. I could easily have passed the same level of scrutiny required to purchase such a weapon. I had a secret security clearance, I have thorough firearms training, I have a safe, with a combination lock, I have no violent criminal history, and I can demonstrate that I am psychologically stable. By any metric that I can think of I would be considered worthy of the state’s trust to own this weapon. But no one asked me any of that. No one checked to make sure. I had but one test to pass, and that was sufficient funds in my checking account. That does not strike me as a reasonable filter to drive a motorcycle, and it doesn’t even come close when you apply it to the sale of firearms. A universal background check doesn’t prevent me from owning firearms. A background check may have made buying that rifle a more cumbersome process, but that is a reasonable thing to ask in trade for a safer Vermont.