by Guy Page
Today, Governor Phil Scott returned without signature and vetoed S.30, the Legislature’s 2022 gun control bill.
In his Constitutionally-required letter to the Legislature, Scott explained that S30 takes firearm waiting period responsibility away from the federal government, where it belongs.
The veto sets up the possibility of a legislative override, which would require support by two-thirds or more of the General Assembly. The Senate approved S30 21-9, and the House voted 91-53.
“I believe going from three to effectively 30 days is excessive and unreasonable for law-abiding citizens who wish to purchase a firearm for their own personal safety or for other lawful and constitutionally protected purposes,” he said. However, he added that he is open to a “path forward” that gives the federal government more time.
Scott sent the following letter to the General Assembly explaining his decision and outlining a path forward:
Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I’m returning S. 30, An act relating to prohibiting possession of firearms within hospital buildings without my signature.
In 2018, I called for and signed the most comprehensive gun safety measures in our state’s history. We established universal background check requirements; authorized extreme risk protection orders (i.e., “red flag” laws), providing tools to prevent someone from having a gun if there is credible evidence they may harm themselves or others; strengthened the ability of law enforcement to seize firearms from those accused of domestic violence; enhanced age requirements; and prohibited the sale and possession of bump stocks and large capacity magazines. This was a comprehensive, and historic, set of policies that take reasonable steps to help keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them. It’s my belief that we need to give these new provisions more time to be fully understood and utilized, and that the Legislature should focus on educating Vermonters on these changes – and on addressing Vermont’s mental health crisis – before additional gun laws are passed.
However, as I’ve also said, I’m open to a discussion about improving existing law to address the so-called “Charleston Loophole” and I’m offering a path forward below. This refers to a provision in federal law that provides automatic approval to someone who is buying a gun if a federal background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (also known as NICS) doesn’t produce a “red light” (i.e., reporting they are ineligible) within three business days.
S. 30 increases that timeframe from three days to an unlimited amount of time without acknowledging that an application expires in 30 days. So instead of holding the federal government accountable to complete the background check in a timely manner, it shifts all the burden away from government – where responsibility was intentionally placed in federal law – entirely onto the citizen. Law abiding citizens who become the victims of a government administrative error must themselves gather all applicable law enforcement and court records and try to understand and navigate a complex maze of federal bureaucratic process to try to rectify their “yellow” status.
For these reasons, I believe going from three to effectively 30 days is excessive and unreasonable for law-abiding citizens who wish to purchase a firearm for their own personal safety or for other lawful and constitutionally protected purposes.
However, I’m willing to work with the Legislature to find a path forward that gives the federal government more time to fulfill its obligations to complete background checks, without denying law-abiding citizens of their right to a fair and reasonable process.
A more reasonable standard would be to increase the current three-day waiting period to seven business days to allow the federal government additional time to resolve issues and make a final determination.
Given this bill’s effective date of July 1, 2022, the Legislature has ample time to address my concerns and send me a bill I can sign.
Based on the objections outlined above I’m returning this legislation without my signature pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution.