WASHINGTON -- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, the head of the Democratic Governors Association, steered clear of calling for a total assault weapons ban Friday while slamming Republicans in Congress for causing a potential economic mess for state governments.
Shumlin, kicking off the weekend's National Governors Association conference, focused much of his attention at a Friday morning POLITICO forum on issues centered on the economy and sequestration. Though his comments largely criticized the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Republican governors, looking beyond his rural base in Vermont, Shumlin also said there is a need for a 50-state solution to gun control.
“We should not be living in a country where someone can walk into a school and shoot up 23 little kids," Shumlin said. "No one with a heartbeat believes that.”
But Shumlin also noted the "need divide" between rural and urban America in terms of the gun issue and said that a total assault weapons ban would need to determine how an assault weapon is defined. Many automatic weapons would not be used for hunting and could be banned, he continued, including the kind used in the Newtown school shooting in Connecticut, which he called a "weapon of war." But at the same time, he said that the definition of an assault weapon would need to address certain rifles used by hunters in his state and other rural areas around the country.
“It depends on how city boys define an assault weapon," Shumlin said. "There is no one I know in Vermont who hunts deer that uses weapons of war in the woods.”
Shumlin focused much of his attacks on Republican economic plans, calling out House Republicans for the looming sequestration debate. He said that he would likely have to slash police and fire jobs in Vermont if the budget cuts take effect on March 1, along with cuts to other public sector employees and within the private sector. Describing the issues as manufactured by House Republicans, Shumlin praised President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats for working toward a solution to sequestration.
Shumlin also accused Republicans in Congress of holding the nation's economic recovery "hostage" and said that they would "bankrupt" the country under their fiscal plans. State leaders, he said, do not want sequestration to take effect.
“We governors are scared to death if these guys in Congress don’t get their act together," he said.
Shumlin continued that Republicans at the state and federal level can't seem manage budgets and tax plans, noting that former President George W. Bush "spent money like a drunken sailor." Shumlin singled out Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) as an exemplifying the GOP's poor fiscal policies, saying that Brownback's plan to zero out income taxes and his successful 2012 push to cut corporate taxes is bankrupting state government. Conservatives have cited Brownback's plan as a model for other Republican governors to consider.
Shumlin announced DGA plans to invest money on behalf of the presumptive Democratic nominees for governor in Virginia and New Jersey, Terry McAuliffe and Barbara Buono. While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) approval rating remains high, Shumlin said he sees an opening for Buono, a state senator from Middlesex County, due to the state's economic condition.
“We will do whatever it takes to win back the blue state like New Jersey," he said.