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VT Teacher Surrenders Loaded Semi-Automatic to Police

Hey, remember what the Governor said after the Newtown shootings? The stuff about Vermont's unique gun culture?

Vermont's strong, safe and relatively unregulated gun culture might contribute to a broader, "50-state" solution to curb firearms violence, Gov. Peter Shumlin says.

..."We're not a state that glorifies weapons of war that are of little practical use to a civilian."

Well, the folks down in Bennington may beg to differ.

A local teacher surrendered a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle to police Monday, shortly after raising public safety concerns through videos and statements he posted on the Internet.

Steven Davis, a beloved science and math teacher at Mount Anthony Union High School for the past nine years, has been hospitalized since Monday following a mental health evaluation, according to Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette.

The Bennington Banner website reports that Davis had been distraught over a pending divorce, and had posted "videos and e-mails to coworkers accusing school officials of negligence and illegal activities."

And there's this:

On Monday morning, Davis began posting videos that criticized school administrators, the teachers union and co-workers, among a slew of other topics. Davis also sent a school-wide email saying he would "remove the union and all of the teachers who are negatively affecting the children in this town."

Davis' Bushmaster AR-15 is the same weapon used in the Newtown shootings. He also owned "two high-capacity magazines and 500 rounds of ammunition," which have been confiscated by police.  

Neighbors asked police to do a welfare check on Davis after seeing him carry the rifle to his vehicle Sunday evening. Davis then voluntarily surrendered the gun, telling police he put it in the trunk of his car in order to bring it to a storage unit he recently rented.

"This weapon was in a case. It has a trigger lock installed, but it was alarming to find two, 30-round, high-capacity magazines loaded," Doucette said.

Maybe Davis was telling the truth: that he was simply transporting his loaded assault weapon to a storage locker. Why he'd store it loaded, I have no idea. On the other hand, he said some pretty alarming things in a voluntary interview with police, according to Chief Doucette:

"He never came out and threatened the teachers in any way, he just said it was time for change. But, when he started going on about reading CIA manuals and he talked about looking into military training and things like that, I became alarmed. My staff became even more alarmed and we became concerned about the safety of the teachers at the school and the safety of the community."

Based on that, we may have just had a close brush with a Newtown tragedy of our own.

This incident clearly illustrates the impossibility of keeping guns away from "crazy people," as Shumlin has suggested. Davis had no history of mental illness; on the contrary, he was well-liked and respected.

And it shows that Vermont's unique gun culture is no guarantee that it won't happen here.

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