In the wake of a young Vermonter's suicide, Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden) said he will introduce a package of gun safety measures in the 2019 legislative session that includes a mandatory 48-hour waiting period before purchasing a firearm.
Baruth announced his intention on Facebook Wednesday, and he referred to the death of 23-year-old Andrew Black, an Essex resident who died in his home on December 6. Black's mother, Alyssa Hughes Black, told WPTZ-TV that her son bought a gun late that morning and shot himself within a few hours.
In Black's obituary, his parents urged people to "work for legislation that imposes a reasonable waiting period between firearm purchase and possession to provide a cooling off period to guard against impulsive acts of violence."
California, Illinois and Rhode Island are among the states that have established waiting periods in law.
The issue has come up in Vermont before. In 2014, Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna was seeking treatment for severe depression. She bought a handgun, and used it to take her own life the next day.
"It's kind of freaky how easy it was for her to get that gun," her husband, Paul Henninge, later told Seven Days.
In his announcement, Baruth wrote he had "been working on a package of ... proposals for several months." He says that other provisions would ban 3D printing of guns and require that gun owners store their weapons safely.
Baruth says that his proposed legislation would be aimed at "shoring up what we did this year." He refers to two provisions in a series of gun safety bills that became law in 2018: a requirement for universal background checks before purchasing guns, and the so-called "red flag" measure that allows police to remove guns when there's imminent danger of violence.
"3D printing creates a work-around to background checks," he says. He plans to propose banning the act of printing a gun and the dissemination of information on how to make a gun. Baruth acknowledges that the latter idea has been challenged on First Amendment grounds, but he expects that challenge to fail.
"You can criminalize publishing directions on making a bomb," says Baruth. "I don't see why states or the federal government couldn't prohibit the dissemination of information about making a gun."
The safe storage requirement is a logical extension of the idea that "only those who should have weapons have access to them," Baruth says. And a waiting period, he argues, would build on the the red-flag law: preventing people from accessing firearms when they might be a danger to themselves or others.
This year's gun debates were highly contentious. And even though the gun-rights community largely failed to defeat unfriendly officeholders at the ballot box, lawmakers might shy away from revisiting the issue so soon. Is there support for more gun laws?
"It's important to start a conversation that may take more than one year," says Baruth. "It may happen next year. It may take two, three or five years."