Also sets 7-day waiting period. Lets judges seize guns without due process. Guv promises to sign
By Guy Page
A replacement bill for S30, the gun control bill vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott, was approved by Senate Judiciary Committee this morning.
S4 was introduced last year to create a two-day waiting period for firearms purchases. After S30 was vetoed, senators gutted it and replaced it with an updated version of S30. This is a common tactic of legislative leadership to push through legislation vetoed by a governor.
The newly amended S4 would:
- Set a maximum seven-day waiting period for firearm sales. S30 allowed FBI background check delays to hold up a gun sale for up to 30 days.
- Ban carrying firearms on hospital property.
- Allows a judge to take away guns from someone who poses “a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public” without first giving that person the right to speak to the judge.
- Exempts some out-of-staters from existing state prohibition to “manufacture, possess, transfer, offer for sale, purchase, or receive or import into this State a large capacity ammunition feeding device.” S4 would allow non-Vermonters to bring the high-capacity magazines into Vermont for organized shooting competitions. Previous state law banned high-capacity magazines. This ‘compromise provision’ allows “any large capacity ammunition feeding device transported by a resident of another state into this State for the exclusive purpose of use in an organized shooting competition.”
The S4 amendment passed promptly by a 5-1 vote, but not before Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) outlined what he said could be the dire consequences if this bill passes.
Benning said he’s okay with the waiting period compromise. As with S30, he opposes the hospital carry ban on the grounds that existing law already covers this situation.
“I remain somewhat perplexed and uncomfortable” with allowing only out-of-staters to use high-capacity magazines, Benning said. “It makes me very uncomfortable that Vermonters will be treated differently than others from out of state.”
But Benning – a defense lawyer – expressed his greatest concern for a provision allowing courts to remove guns from a household without first hearing from the person from whom the guns are being seized. He regretted the loss of “due process….that is denied to an individual if we pass this language.”
“It is a precedent setting that I fear for the future will be a stepping stone for other cases,” Benning said.
Committee Chair Dick Sears (R-Bennington) shared some concerns about due process. He also said some Vermont judges are already seizing firearms in practice. But the need to reduce Vermont gun deaths caused by suicide and domestic disputes overcame his concerns.
“Knowing factually that the largest number of deaths coming from firearms is suicide, the second is domestic violence,” Sears said. “I am going to err on the side of caution. Even though I do share some concerns about due process.”
“We know what we know. Just as we followed the science with the Covid situation, I think we need to follow the statistics and the science with the firearms situation,” Sears said.
At his press conference today, Gov. Scott said he is unaware of Benning’s concerns.
Jaye Johnson, legal counsel for Gov. Phil Scott, said Scott would accept S4 as a compromise, because it meets his veto recommendation of a seven-day waiting period.
UPDATE: The posting of the committee’s decision on http://www.vermontdailychronicle.com drew an immediate response from reader Greg Robbins: “The VT legislature needs to focus more on violent and deadly drug crimes like the NVRH shooting last week instead of passing legislation to make it even more difficult for law abiding legal firearms owners to defend themselves from drug dealers/traffickers, burglaries etc. Too many of these sleazeballs are given a slap on the wrist and released to commit more violent crimes. The judiciary committee needs to do a better job reigning in local DA’s and judges who continually turn the other cheek in favor of the criminals.”