Vermont lawmakers try to hammer out new gun rules

Published: Jan. 23, 2020 at 7:58 AM EST
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Waiting periods for buying firearms save lives-- that was the message on Thursday from two independent researchers from Harvard University who testified in front of Vermont lawmakers.

Democratic lawmakers want to hammer out new gun laws after the governor vetoed several last year. Our Calvin Cutler takes a look at what's different this time.

Democratic lawmakers are coming to the table, this time with hard data showing waiting periods make a difference in reducing gun homicides and suicides. Waiting periods create a delay in between when people buy a firearm and actually receive that firearm.

As Democratic lawmakers armed with data give gun laws another go, the pressure is on the governor and the Legislature to pass new gun laws.

Last year, Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, vetoed a waiting period bill, saying he had done enough to tackle guns and there wasn't enough data on waiting periods.

Now, Democrats' efforts to change the governor's mind or override a veto are picking up steam.

Professor Deepak Malhotra from the Harvard Business School worked on the research.

"To do an analysis any scientific-minded person would read and say, 'You know what? The evidence seems pretty compelling. There seems to be a significant effect on suicides and homicides,'" Malhotra said.

The team's research estimates waiting periods reduce death by suicide by 7 percent to 12 percent and reduce gun homicides by 17 percent. They also say if every state had waiting period laws, it would prevent about 900 homicides and 950 suicides a year.

"This will save lives," Malhotra said. "That doesn't mean that every gun policy that's proposed should be enacted, but maybe this one should because the evidence is so clear."

The bill includes domestic violence and extreme risk protection clauses, as well.

Gun advocates say the waiting periods should be taken out of the bill and voted on later. They contend the solution is investing in more human services.

"Through mental health systems that respond to families in crisis, systems to deal with people who are in abusive relationships and systems which deal with people who are incarcerated," said Bill Moore of the Vermont Traditions Coalition.

Armed with new research, Democratic lawmakers say they might look at trying to override the governor's veto or crafting a new bill that would extend the waiting period to two days. But whether they have the votes for an override is unclear.

"It's not just the Senate that has to make a decision of how to move forward. Ultimately, our goal isn't just to pass a bill so it will become a law; we want something to become a law and save people's lives," said Tim Ashe, D-Vt. Senate President Pro Tem.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the governor's staff said Scott stands by his decision to veto last session's bill. The governor also says he's focusing on the root causes of gun violence such as suicide prevention, early intervention and criminal justice reform.