By Guy Page
A bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden) would impose new restrictions on possession of firearms. It follows a juvenile gun control bill co-sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Baruth Friday, Jan. 6.
- Prohibit the possession of firearms by persons subject to final relief from abuse and stalking orders.
- Expand the list of criminal offenses with respect to which conviction prohibits a person from possessing a firearms.
- Require a 72-hour waiting period for most firearms transfers.
S11 is the second gun control bill introduced in the Senate, which is now led by Baruth, long the Legislature’s strongest advocate of firearms restrictions. He also co-sponsored S4, which focuses mostly on restricting gun access for juveniles.
Under S11, possessing firearms while under relief from abuse or stalking orders would carry a prison sentence of up to one year or a $1000 fine.
Current state law prohibits gun ownership to people convicted of violent crimes. Baruth’s bill would add to that list of gun possession-banning offenses:
- Domestic terrorism
- Carrying a dangerous or deadly weapon with the intent to injure multiple persons
- Possessing a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon on school property with the intent to injure another person
- Violent crime with explosives
- Possession or use of weapons of mass destruction or hoax weapons
- Threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Failing to wait 72 hours to transfer a firearm following a background check would carry a sentence of up to one year, or a fine of up to $500.
S4, whose lead sponsor is Judiciary Chair Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington), also addresses organized drug and human trafficking crime. For example, it would try in criminal court all persons age 14-21 “charged with human trafficking, trafficking a regulated drug, or carrying a dangerous weapon while committing a felony.” It also would “prohibit a dwelling or building owner from knowingly or recklessly permitting the premises to be used for human trafficking, selling or dispensing a regulated drug, or carrying a dangerous weapon while committing a felony.” And it would provide grant funding to communities suffering from high rates of youth violence.
The bill’s gun control measures, however, are detailed and precise, prohibiting:
- possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number;
- straw purchases of firearms;
- possession of firearms by fugitives from justice;
- possession of semiautomatic assault weapons by persons under 21 years of age.
The bill also would make juvenile case records and files available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for purposes of conducting a background check when a person under 21 years of age purchases a firearm.
Both S11 and S4 have been referred to the Judiciary Committee, of which Baruth is a member. It is highly likely these bills will proceed for further committee review.
Last June, Baruth told VDC to expect “meaningful gun safety legislation” in the new year.