Vermont lawmakers consider waiting period on gun purchases

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) A grieving couple is asking the Vermont Legislature to place additional limits on guns.

A year after lawmakers enacted Vermont's first curbs on gun ownership, they heard emotional testimony calling for a waiting period for gun purchases. Our Neal Goswami has more on the latest firearms debate taking place in the Statehouse.

"We knew he was coming out of where he had been, this dark hole that he had put himself into. We could see him coming out of that. It would have given him time to come out of it," mom Alyssa Black said.

Andrew Black was 23 when he took his own life last December. His father, a combat vet, owns guns but they were secured.

"He was 15 feet away from guns that are locked up and secured and he couldn't get to them. He was 15 feet away," dad Rob Black said.

So Andrew Black went to a store and bought a gun at 11 in the morning. Later that afternoon, he used his new gun to end his own life.

"I think a waiting period would disrupt that impulsive purchase of a firearm," Rob Black said. "I mean, it would be a nice little speed bump for somebody that was buying it for the wrong reasons."

His parents detailed their son's story to the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday in a packed but silent hearing room. They hope the state will pass a waiting period of at least 48 hours.

"Deciding whether to vote yes or no will be based on whether I believe that a waiting period would help to deal with what I consider Vermont's number one firearm problem, that's suicide," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

Chris Bradley represents the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. He lost an uncle and a close friend to suicide. But he opposes the measure the Blacks say could have saved their son.

"This is hugely tragic and I'm in the very awkward and unenviable position to try to rationalize emotion versus rights," Bradley said.

He says his opposition is rooted in protecting the rights of those who do need quick access to firearms.

"I am not an ogre. I am not an evil man in defending guns to the end. I'm a realist," Bradley said. "There are people who are at risk of bodily injury and death. Is it reasonable to deny them at any length the right to be able to defend themselves?"

The Blacks say it is.

"The only reason that anybody needs instant access to a gun is if they're going to hurt themselves or they're going to hurt somebody else," Alyssa Black said.

A year after passionate debate about gun laws, Chairman Dick Sears says the Senate Judiciary Committee is ready to take on this delicate debate.