Vermont's House Judiciary Committee plans to spend next week debating whether to add additional gun safety measures to a Senate-passed bill that would raise the firearm purchasing age to 21 and mandate universal background checks for all gun sales.
The new proposals, from Rep. Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington) would put a 10-round limit on magazines and require guns to be locked up when they’re stored outside of the owner’s control.
“To have more than 10 rounds, it makes a firearm a more lethal weapon — more of a killing machine,” LaLonde said. “It’s one of the areas that advocates for having safer gun laws are really pushing, and they’ve studied this and they believe that this is one of the best things we can do for these shooter situations.”
The safe storage provision, he said, is designed to protect children and teens from hurting themselves or others by getting their hands on a gun without supervision.
Second Amendment advocates are firmly opposed to both measures on the grounds that they unduly restrict Vermonters’ ability to protect their homes.
On Tuesday, LaLonde proposed those and two other amendments that didn’t survive the week: One would have banned assault weapons, and the other would have implemented a 10-day waiting period before buyers could take possession of a gun.
LaLonde confirmed Friday what gun rights advocates had warned: When it came down to it, the House Judiciary Committee could not figure out a definition for “assault weapon” that made sense to them.
“In a manner that wouldn’t be both over-broad, in that it would capture firearms that we’re really not concerned about, but at the same time being under-inclusive it would be relatively easy to get around those characteristics and have a firearm that we’d be more concerned about as far as the lethality about how it could be misused,” he said.
The waiting period, LaLonde said, wouldn't work because neighboring New Hampshire doesn’t have one.
“So if somebody is impulsive enough to want to buy a handgun or a firearm to do harm, right across the border is where that happens,” LaLonde said.
The remaining amendments under consideration — magazine capacity limits and safe storage — also don’t have support from firearms policy analyst Bill Moore of the Vermont Traditions Coalition.
“The storage requirement will impinge on the choices of people to defend themselves in the home. Clearly those people are most likely to be women defending single-family homes, the handicapped … it’s going to affect them first,” Moore said. “It always afflicts the afflicted first.”
Moore said storing a gun, much like storing a chainsaw or the keys to the family car, is a decision best made in the home.
“To have that imposed on me by the LaLonde amendment, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Similarly, Moore said a 10-round limit on magazines could leave Vermonters short on ammo when they need it most. He describes a mother of two dealing with a home invader.
“If she’s not a proficient shooter and she’s clutching an infant in one arm and she’s holding an elbow back toward her four-year-old saying ‘shush, shush’ … does she not have the right to hold 11 rounds?” Moore asked, noting that many modern handguns come standard with 12- to 17-round magazines.
Eight states and Washington, D.C., have placed limits on magazine capacity, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
House Judiciary Chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) told the committee Friday that she hopes to hold a vote on LaLonde’s remaining amendments, and the underlying bill that came over from the Senate, by Wednesday.