24-Hour Handgun Waiting Period Clears Vermont House | Off Message

24-Hour Handgun Waiting Period Clears Vermont House


Alyssa and Rob Black testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February - FILE: TAYLOR DOBBS
  • File: Taylor Dobbs
  • Alyssa and Rob Black testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February
The Vermont House advanced legislation late Wednesday evening that would mandate a 24-hour waiting period before all handgun purchases in the state.

The House backed the bill by a vote of 82 to 58 — enough to secure passage, but not enough to override a possible veto by Gov. Phil Scott, who has expressed general opposition to new gun laws. Such an override would require 100 votes in the 150-member House.

Rob and Alyssa Black of Essex, whose 23-year-old son Andrew killed himself with a handgun last December just hours after purchasing it, watched the lengthy debate stoically from the rear of the House chamber. Afterward, they hugged supporters and expressed relief and appreciation to legislators.

"It was a hard decision, but it was the right decision," Rob Black said of those who backed the bill.

“We believe that Gov. Scott has shown time and time again that he’s willing to make courageous decisions,” Alyssa Black said, expressing optimism that he might sign it. “I would hope he would show that again.”

Supporters said the bill, S.169, would help reduce suicides by making impulse gun purchases more difficult, while opponents characterized the legislation as making it harder for people to defend themselves against perpetrators of domestic violence.
Because the Senate has already passed an identical version of the bill, it would go straight to Scott's desk if it clears a final House vote later this week. The governor has not specifically stated whether he would sign or veto it.

A number of Republicans offered amendments seeking to soften the impact of the bill.

Rep. Topper McFaun (R-Barre) proposed an exemption for gun shows and club raffles. He said the bill, as written, could imperil the Barre Fish and Game Club's gun shows, which he said brought significant economic benefits to the town he represents.

“These are Vermont traditions and should be allowed to continue without threat of demise,” McFaun said. His amendment failed 56 to 81.

Rep. Robert Bancroft (R-Westford) sought to exempt guns sold over the internet, reasoning that they would take longer than 24 hours to ship. His amendment failed by a similar margin.

Another proposal by Rep. Patrick Brennan (R-Colchester) to exclude domestic violence victims from the law also failed to win support. Brennan argued that if passed as drafted, a domestic abuser would know his victim would not have access to a gun during the “very volatile period.”

Exempting domestic abuse victims from the waiting period would at least “plant the seed of doubt” in an abuser’s mind about whether the victim might be armed, Brennan argued.

Rep. Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington) noted that the best course of action in such a situation is for a domestic violence victim to get to a safe shelter, not to get a gun.

Alyssa Black said the suggestion that domestic violence victims should “go get a gun and good luck” was “cynical.”

Though some gun-control advocates had hoped to set the waiting period at 48 or 72 hours, they compromised with gun rights advocates at 24 hours. The bill only applies to handgun purchases.

Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Northfield) sought to have the bill referred to the House Health Care Committee on the grounds that the impact on reducing suicide had not been sufficiently studied. That effort failed, as well.