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Vermont House Gives Final Approval To Bill Imposing Waiting Period For Gun Purchases

Vermont Statehouse
Vermont Statehouse

A new era for gun control is continuing in Vermont. The Vermont House has given final approval to a bill that sets a waiting period for the purchase of handguns and sent the measure to the governor.
S.169 received preliminary approval Wednesday in the Vermont House on an 82 to 58 roll call vote and on Thursday morning a voice vote provided final approval of the measure.
House Speaker Mitzi Johnson: “All those in favor please signify by saying aye.”
House members:  “Aye.”
Johnson:  “Those opposed nay.”
House members:  “No.”
Johnson:  “The ayes appear to have it. The ayes do have it and you have passed S.169 in concurrence.”

The key provision of the bill establishes a 24-hour waiting period for the purchase of handguns.  Supporters argue it would prevent suicides by providing a cooling-off period before a purchaser gets a gun.
Merry Shernock, a volunteer with the Vermont chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense America, says she became involved in the gun safety movement because of suicides that occurred in her village.  “That’s the biggest gun problem we have in Vermont is suicide. And you know who’s at risk? Men. The male suicide rate’s very high because first of all men choose to use guns. Women do not. People who want to have a firearm it isn’t hurting them to wait 24 hours as much as it hurts an impulsive teenager.”

Sporting and gun rights groups in Vermont oppose the measure.  Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs President Chris Bradley says a 24-hour waiting period is unnecessary and believes it’s questionable whether the intent of the bill to reduce suicide and gun violence can be achieved.  “I would like to think that this law, well intentioned though it may be, might help but given the fact that this was never even referred to the Committee on Mental Health. It was put forth specifically as a gun control measure under the guise of something that might help public health.”

Gun Owners of Vermont President Ed Cutler says their research found there were only four suicides in the past 20 years in the state in which someone bought a firearm and used it within two days.  “Realistically it’s taking away a person’s right to self defense. They’re taking away their rights under Article 16. We have the lowest firearm death rate as far as violent crime. And it’s already illegal for a number of ways for  people to do what these people are saying is happening. So there are already laws on the books.”

Last year, Governor Phil Scott raised the hackles of Vermont gun owners when he signed into law new gun control measures. The Republican has not said if he will sign or veto S.169. Cutler hopes the governor vetoes it.  “If he does the right thing and vetoes that bill we will forgive and forget what he did last year. If he stands with us from here on out, you know everybody’s entitled to one mistake, he made a mistake last year by asking for that bill. If he straightens that out this year we’d be overjoyed with it and we would literally put him up on a silver pedestal for standing with us.”

The roll call vote during preliminary passage was not a veto proof majority.

Audio from the Vermont Statehouse is courtesy of the live webstream provided by Vermont Public Radio.