Vt. Gov: Let’s Charge Abusers to Store Guns

Montpelier — Law enforcement officials should be able to charge for storage of firearms belonging to people subject to protection from abuse orders, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday.

Those subject to relief-from-abuse orders usually are required not to possess firearms, which Shumlin called an important safeguard when emotions are running high, and the legislation Shumlin is backing would lighten the burden on authorities trying to make sure those weapons are secure.

“The goal is to give law enforcement and professional (gun) dealers the means to take control of the storage of firearms while protection orders are in effect, instead of letting abusers hand them over to a friend or family member or, worse, hold on to them,” the governor said.

Under the legislation, sheriffs would be allowed to charge a fee for the storage of weapons and could sell them if the fee were not paid. A $75,000 fund would be set up to support building and maintaining storage facilities, with the aim that the fund would be replenished by the fees.

Shumlin was joined by key lawmakers, leaders of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and others. He said he was prompted to make the announcement by a recent spate of domestic violence crimes in Vermont.

Shumlin said current gun laws —Vermont is among the most favorable states in the country toward gun ownership rights — would not change. What would change would be the ability of law enforcement to take and store firearms when a judge issues an order that a domestic violence perpetrator not possess weapons.

Sheriffs said taking and storing the weapons can be a burden. Washington County Sheriff Sam Hill, among the law enforcement officials who joined Shumlin at the news conference, said his department had one case in which it took and stored 15 weapons valued at $45,000.

Hill said police would still not be able to get and execute a search warrant for weapons unless they had evidence that their owner was violating a court order to turn them over.