Vermont Governor Phil Scott, who signed several high-profile gun control laws last year, has vetoed a measure that would have imposed a waiting period to purchase handguns.
The 24-hour waiting period was pushed by advocates as a mental health and safety measure to prevent suicides and reduce domestic violence. But opponents of the bill said data did not support their claims and the measure conflicts with Vermont’s constitution.
In his veto message issued Monday, Governor Phil Scott said S.169 did not address the underlying causes of violence and suicide. Wednesday, the Republican reiterated what he spelled out in his veto letter: “I don’t believe the bill that came to my desk this week addresses these underlying factors or would achieve the public safety goals it aimed to achieve. Gun safety is an area I’m willing to advocate for and support. I’m simply not persuaded a 24-hour waiting period on handguns will have the desired outcome. And there isn’t a waiting period measure that gives us an apples-to-apples comparison to assess the impact.”
Scott noted that he approved significant and historic gun reforms last year. “These measures included extreme risk protection orders which gave families the tools to remove guns from those who may harm themselves or others; allowing law enforcement to remove firearms from those accused of domestic violence; increasing the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21; expanding mandatory background check requirements; banning bump stocks and prohibiting the purchase of high capacity magazines and importantly it advocated for a focus on improving the health and mental health of our citizens.”
GunSense Vermont Executive Director Clai Lasher-Sommers claims 80 percent of Vermonters support the 24-hour handgun waiting period. “It was a common sense bill that provided for a 24-hour waiting period after a background check to buy a gun. When a person commits to take their life and they have easy access to a gun or they can go buy one immediately that becomes part of what you try to you know put a stop gap measure in. And that’s what this bill was. I know that this bill would have saved lives. Even with domestic violence cases it would have saved lives.”
Gun Owners of Vermont President and Legislative Director Ed Cutler says they participate in anti-violence and anti-suicide programs and believes S.169 would have been ineffective. “The program we’re involved we recommend to people who come to us in anonymity and we basically send them to people who can help them. We have actually gone further than that. Right now what we’re doing is we’re holding people’s guns. We did the research. The total number over the last 20 years of people that actually went out and bought a firearm and used it immediately is four. In one of those instances the person waited two days. There are a lot more abused women out there that need that firearm for protection than what they’re saying is going on.”
The Legislature did not schedule a veto session when it adjourned in May.