Vermont Legislature gives final approval gun-buy delay
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont House of Representatives gave final approval Thursday to legislation that would establish a 24-hour waiting period to buy handguns, a measure proponents say is needed to prevent impulsive gun purchases that can lead to self-harm and homicides.
The measure comes a year after Vermont imposed its first significant gun ownership restrictions in the aftermath of what police say was a near-miss school shooting in the town of Fair Haven.
Gov. Phil Scott, speaking at a Thursday news conference at about the same time the House was giving final approval to the measure by a voice vote, said he didn't know if he would sign the measure when it reaches his desk.
Scott said he hadn't read the bill yet and he wanted to read the data used to justify the restrictions.
"I'll take a look at it," he said when asked if he would sign the gun bill.
In addition to establishing the waiting period, the legislation updates restrictions on the transfer and use of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices.
Proponents say the legislation will help save lives.
"We know that many suicide attempts occur with little planning during a short-term crisis, and that 90% of firearm suicide attempts result in death," Democratic State Rep. Martin Lalonde said in a statement issued by the office of Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson after the bill was given preliminary approval Wednesday night. "Instituting a short waiting period lets the heat of the moment pass and helps to prevent the tragedy of suicide."
The Senate already passed the measure. The final version was a compromise. An earlier version considered in the Senate called for a 48-hour waiting period.
Opponents say the legislation infringes on gun owners' right.
Scott signed Vermont's first significant gun ownership restrictions on April 11, 2018, that raised the age to buy firearms, banned high-capacity magazines and made it easier to take guns from people who pose a threat. The earlier legislation was needed, Scott said, after what police described as a near-miss school shooting.
Scott, a gun owner, who had previously said he felt Vermont's gun laws were sufficient, changed his mind after police arrested a Poultney teenager the day after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that left 17 people dead. The legal case against the teenager was eventually transferred to juvenile court.
Scott said the incident proved to him that Vermont was not immune from the school violence and urged lawmaker to pass guns safety laws.
Scott signed the legislation after weeks of intense and emotional debate on the Statehouse steps amid a crowd of gun control opponents who called him a traitor and as backers of the legislation cheered him.
Lalonde said this year's gun legislation didn't carry the emotion of last year and parts of it corrected shortcomings in last year's legislation.
"Last year it had really been a long time since we had had any kind of restrictions on acquiring firearms," Lalonde said Thursday... "This year just didn't feel as big of a step with respect to the waiting period component of the bill."