Compromise gun bill heads to Senate floor

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Legislation to create a 24-hour waiting period for the purchase of handguns is heading to the Senate floor after a compromise Friday from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Committee approved the waiting period for handgun purchases, but also agreed to roll back some restrictions on high-capacity magazines that became law last year.

"I think we have done what's called compromise. That's what we do in this building," Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

The compromise reduces the 48-hour waiting period that was originally proposed and it removes restrictions on high-capacity magazines for those coming to Vermont for shooting competitions.

"It's absolutely a compromise bill. There's movement from both sides," said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County.

Sen. Sears voted for it while Sen. Benning did not. Benning says he didn't hear evidence showing the waiting period will work, and certainly not enough to restrict a constitutional right. "That constitutional right should not have impediments placed in front of it unless there is a real compelling interest as to why that should turn," he said.

Sears, the committee's chairman, proposed the one-day waiting period based on the testimony he heard. "One of the letters I got from a gun shop owner indicated that many of the handgun purchases that he has are impulsive buys," Sears said.

Sears says people attending gun shows can still buy handguns, and the waiting period may save some lives.

The Vermont Federation of Sportsmens Clubs likes changes to the magazine ban but doesn't support the waiting period. "I am just appalled that someone's right to self-defense can be compromised in any way, shape or form," said the group's Chris Bradley.

Gov. Phil Scott says he's not pushing for a waiting period, but he hasn't threatened to veto it either.

"I want to have a conversation with the governor about it, but that's his vote, too. He can decide how to deal with it," Sears said.

The compromise that cleared the committee on a three to two vote could still fall apart. Members of the committee say they don't want to see it changed on the floor of the Senate or the House.