Couple that lost son to suicide undeterred by veto

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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) Gov. Phil Scott's decision Monday to veto a handgun purchase waiting period bill drew swift and strong condemnation from many, including from those hoping to stem Vermont's high rate of suicide.

Rob and Alyssa Black

"I feel some anger, for sure. I think it was a very cowardly thing for the governor to do, given all the evidence he had, all the statistics," said Rob Black.

"We think he made a political decision," added Black's wife, Alyssa.

The Essex couple lost their son, Andrew, to suicide last year. They testified at the Statehouse and lobbied lawmakers to pass a waiting period. They thought it was about to become law. "We thought that he would just not sign it. We thought he would just let it become law," Alyssa said.

And then Monday night they heard the bill was vetoed. Rob says it was like a punch to the gut after their earlier conversation with Gov. Scott. "Just through our conversation with him and some of the questions he asked, some of the things he told us, some personal things that effected him in his life," he said.

Scott drew praise last year when he publicly signed a trio of gun bills into law, creating mandatory background checks, extreme risk protection orders and boosting the legal age to buy guns to 21.

In a statement issued Monday night, Scott pointed to last year's bills and called for more action to prevent gun violence and suicide. "With these measures in place, we must now prioritize strategies that address the underlying causes of violence and suicide. I do not believe S.169 addresses these areas," he said.

Though disappointed, the Blacks say they expected setbacks and knew it would take time to enact a waiting period.

"We both had no idea that it would even get this far in the first year," said Rob.

"We actually didn't think that this year would be as successful as it was. I think a lot of people were surprised by that," Alyssa added.

And they say they'll be back at it next year, trying again. "We sat down together the day after that obituary ran and said that we're in this for the long haul," Alyssa said.

The governor's spokeswoman says Scott wasn't available to comment Tuesday because he's with his ailing dog at an emergency veterinary clinic. She says he plans to take questions from reporters Wednesday.