Vt. House approves gun bill over GOP concerns

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:03 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 7:49 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont House Thursday approved a sweeping gun bill aimed at suicide prevention, despite reservations from some GOP lawmakers and the governor.

There was spirited debate Thursday on the House floor over House Bill 230, a measure that would create a 72-hour waiting period for purchasing firearms, expand red flag laws, and require safe storage of firearms.

Several failed GOP amendments would have paused the bill and tasked experts to study and collect data on suicides by firearm including what types of guns are used and how they were obtained.

“I think it’s about the right remedies about using Vermont data,” said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield.

But bill sponsor Rep. Alyssa Black, D- Essex, who lost her son to suicide, says any delays will only put lives at risk. “By delaying for a year, how many people will die that may have been saved? Even one life would be too many to justify a delay,” she said.

There are also constitutional concerns after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision last June has thrown current and proposed gun laws across the country into legal doubt. Even in Vermont, officials are split on whether it will pass constitutional muster. The attorney general says it adheres to the Second Amendment while the state’s defender general disagrees.

“We need to do our due diligence and let the numerous cases out there challenging Bruen play out for a bit, in my humble opinion, before we go about making these changes,” said Rep. Mike Morgan, R-Milton.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Martin LaLonde, D-South Burlington, says lawsuits over the High Court’s ruling could take years. “It is going to be some time. A year is not likely going to be enough to see how Bruen is going to play out,” he said.

The bill passed on a voice vote and now heads to the Senate. But just like a bill four years ago that proposed a waiting period, the measure will likely face Gov. Phil Scott’s veto pen.

“I personally don’t believe we need to make any dramatic changes in our gun laws at this point. From my perspective that would be problematic,” Scott said last week.

But with GOP amendments like the “Bruen pause” failing by a margin of 105-to-41, it’s an indication of the strong support that would be needed to override a veto.

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