"It would be very hard for me, in my own life, to deal with the consequences if I was to inadvertently sell someone a firearm, and they went and did something horrific with it — it would just make me feel horrible. I'm a little league coach. I'm a father of three."
Those are the words of Barre pawn shop owner Craig McDermott speaking with Vermont Public Radio about his decision to stop AR-style assault rifles in his store.
As another wave of mass shootings has haunted a nation whose majority of citizens are opposed to private ownership of assault-style weapons, McDermott is the first business owner in Vermont to speak up about his decision. McDermott, who is a federally-licensed combat-style firearm dealer, told VPR's Grace Benninghoff that his decision was not motivated by politics.
"I think the final straw for me was I got an email from the Montpelier superintendent of schools in the Montpelier Roxbury district. And they let the parents know that there had been a close call at Montpelier High School — that was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back," McDermott said.
"For me, there's obviously no dollar amount that is worth the life of any young person in our community. I love firearms. I respect everybody's right to own them. I just don't want to have anything to do with a horrific event if it does happen."
McDermott's store includes many antiques, which he enjoys dealing with, and called assault weapons as "kind of boring guns" that generally look and are made the same way.
McDermott said he hasn't received much negative response to his decision, describing his business as broader than guns, selling "a lot of vintage estate jewelry and antiques and paintings and sculptures."
McDermott told VPR that he hopes more sellers will consider the decision he made
"Hunting is awesome," he said, "but we're at a point now where there's a lot of guns out there. So I don't know the answer. I'm not a magician. But we have a situation now where there's a school shooting so frequently now that it seems like they're just becoming part of our regular culture — which is very, very, very, very bad."
McDermott's message boils down to the importance of community.
"Definitely, we all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to keep each other safe. And as a community, that's always been the American way, right? You look out for one another. You look out for your neighbor. You do what you think is best, and you act accordingly. I think it starts on a local level, community by community. And hopefully, other gun dealers really check their guts and see if it's worth it."