The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Green Mountain Airlift Recap

RECOIL took to the Vermont Statehouse steps this past weekend to stand with Vermont’s law-abiding gun owners and protest new gun control legislation that is all but certain to pass, making the possession of 30-round, standard capacity rifle magazines illegal, among other gun control measures.

I handed out 1198 30-round MAGPUL PMAG rifle magazines to a peaceful crowd of more than 1100 people over the course of about two hours. The event was originally conceived as a way to raise awareness and fuel local opposition to Vermont’s new gun control measures, but it quickly turned into a full-blown rally for gun rights.

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Until this winter, members of neither political party would have thought Vermont’s legislature would pass a gun control bill. The state has one of the country’s lowest crime rates and a heritage of outdoor pursuits that include all flavors of hunting. In fact, Vermont’s Republican Governor Phil Scott responded to questions about the state’s gun laws the day after 17 people were killed by Nicholas Cruz at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by saying Vermont needed no new gun laws.

Within days of making that statement, the Governor announced a change of heart and stood with legislators proposing gun control measures that included background checks on private party transfers, an assault weapons ban, a limit on rifle and pistol magazine capacity, a bumpstock ban, raising the minimum age to buy a rifle to 21, and an extreme risk confiscation measure, among others.

The most controversial measures ended up in a bill called S.55 which was originally meant to help the state get rid of firearms collected by the state, ergo its name, “An act relating to the disposition of unlawful and abandoned firearms.”

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By Thursday of last week, the witches brew of gun control measures poured into S.55 in the weeks prior was pared back to four measures; background checks on all firearm transfers (excluding immediate family), raising the age to buy a rifle to 21, placing a 10-round limit on rifle magazines and a 15-round limit on pistol magazines, and outlawing bumpstock-like devices.

I was in my truck Thursday night, rolling on I-89 on my way to my eastern Vermont home. I was listening to a VPR reprt on the latest political wrangling surrounding S.55. I was racking my brain for a way I could help my fellow law-abiding Vermont gun-owners when I heard lawmakers were trying to put a carve-out in the bill to allow firearm manufacturers in the state to continue producing standard-capacity magazines; Vermont hosts one of Century Arms manufacturing plants and it employs a few hundred Vermonters. This, combined with the bill’s grandfathering of all the standard-capacity mags in the state, the easy availability of mags in neighboring states, and the impossibility of tracking a non-serialized product, made me realize how toothless, unenforceable, and toxic the measure was to Vermont’s population, and to a lesser extent, its economy. It got me thinking.

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I knew a few people in the firearm industry and one, in particular, was positioned perfectly to help me rattle the cage here in Vermont. It was after hours Thursday when I called Duane Liptak of MAGPUL Industries and asked him how much it would cost me to get a bunch of mags here to give away as a show of opposition to the pending mag ban. I was hoping he’d authorize an Ethan Allen Emergency Discount and all I’d have to do is figure out how to split a couple thousand bucks worth rifle mags between my expense report and the charitable donation section of my 2018 tax return.

To my surprise, he said don’t sweat it, then asked how many I wanted and where they needed to go. I told him the rub was that the law takes effect on passage, meaning the Governor could sign Monday, closing the window on me. He asked me to sit tight while he worked on the logistics.

Liptak got back within a few minutes and let me know it was too late to ship anything that night, but asked if I could accept a Saturday delivery. He’d pulled a dozen boxes of mags and set them to ship overnight for a Saturday delivery.

At this point, I decided to wait until the mags were on the way to begin rallying the locals. So, I sat on my hands and made a quick plan that included mobilizing local support through social media, raising awareness through media outreach. I also planned to reach out to the state firearm advocacy group, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and invite them to bring a donation box, as I’d encourage attendees to donate to the cause.

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As soon as I saw the tracking number become active Friday morning, I called VTFSC President Chris Bradley Friday and told him what I planned to do. He was fully on board and offered to rally his troops and help spread the message. I was grateful because I really had no idea if 50 or 1000 people were going to come out to the Statehouse with less than 24 hours notice, and I didn’t cherish explaining to my wife how long these huge boxes of mags were going to reside in our house.

I held off putting anything out publicly about the event until the tracking info on the boxes began to actually move for fear of a false start. Late Friday afternoon, around 4:40, the boxes began to move. The RECOIL team mobilized. We socialized the event, posted a press release and shared it with the local media and the VTFSC. And we watched the tracking info for the 1200 PMAGs making their way hastily from Cheyenne to Vermont.

At 9:30 Saturday morning, a FedEx truck arrived at RECOIL’s Vermont offices and the driver, a RECOIL reader, unloaded the shipment from his truck and loaded it into ours. He expressed support for the Green Mountain Airlift and we thanked him for his help with a few copies of our current issue.

We continued to spread the word through the morning, then at 1 pm I headed to the Vermont Statehouse. As I pulled up, I saw the crowd. The hunter orange-tinged crowd was bigger than I’d hoped. (In Vermont, wearing safety orange is the polite way to show political support for gun rights.)

Chris Gibson, a friend I’d asked to help me out, met me at the corner of the Statehouse lawn. He had not only saved me a  good parking spot but he’d linked up with another of my friends, Wes Rainy of Green Mountain Armory and the pair corralled a cadre to help move the mags into position and stand as a phalanx to keep things orderly once the handing-out began.

Our little giveaway morphed into a political rally, as Bradley had lined up a number of speakers to address the crowd. There were probably close to 1000 people on the Statehouse steps and lawn at this point and there were a few police uniforms mixed into the landscape. Before I carried anything up from the truck, I found the Vermont Capitol Police Chief Matthew Romei to find out if we were going to end up in jail over the event. He said as long as we didn’t block traffic and nobody got out of hand, we were free to use the Statehouse lawn as a gathering place. He also thanked us for coming and asked if we’d set aside PMAGs for his officers on duty.

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I said a few things about freedom and unity (Vermont’s founding principles) and let the crowd know we’d be giving out the mags in a few minutes after the roster of speakers had their say. The speakers included Senator Joe Benning, Senator John Rodgers, Senator David Soucy, Representative Pat Brennan, Representative Jannsen Willhoit, Chris Bradley, and Ed Cutler.

We asked the crowd to line up on either side of the Statehouse steps for each person to get a mag. The double line extended all the way to State Street and I probably shook 900 hands and gave out more than 1100 mags to individuals over the course of the next 90 minutes. I took a couple of breaks, one to talk to the TV reporters, one to hand a guy in a wheelchair a mag, and one to tell someone asking for mags on behalf of the speakers that the politicians could stand in line like everyone else.

After handing everyone in the twin lines a mag, I had about half of one of the boxes remaining. I offered the remainder to the stragglers for further donations to the VTFSC.

At the end of the day, Bradley tells me the VTFSC donation box was stuffed with $10,843.07, the Governor saw more than 1000 law-abiding Vermonters come out in support of their gun rights with less than 24 hours notice.

We’d also like to thank Dave Pastry for sharing his photographs of the event with us.

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