Bill to Remove Firearms From Domestic Violence Incidents Advances in Vt.

Vermont Public Radio
Published: 3/17/2017 11:51:53 PM
Modified: 3/17/2017 11:52:03 PM

Montpelier — The House Judiciary Committee has advanced legislation that would allow Vermont police to temporarily seize firearms from the scene of an alleged domestic assault.

It’s the lone piece of gun-control legislation in Montpelier with any traction this session. And it’s drawn opposition from Second Amendment advocates who worry about constitutional infringements on the right to bear arms.

A 2016 report by the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission found that, of the 131 domestic violence homicides committed in Vermont since 1994, nearly 60 percent were perpetrated with a firearm. It’s a statistic that’s prompted lawmakers to look for new ways to remove firearms from volatile conflicts in the home.

“We must remember that the statistics are real. When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, it increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent,” said Auburn Watersong, associate policy director at the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, citing a 2003 study.

The network is leading the charge for legislation, called H.422, that would allow police to remove firearms from the scene of domestic violence incident without a court order, even if the gun is legal and wasn’t used in the alleged crime.

“H.422 provides added protection for victims of domestic assault, and allows them more time to plan for their safety without having to fear for their lives,” Watersong said.

Existing law allows police to confiscate guns if they’re used, or threatened to be used, in the alleged domestic assault, or if they’re considered evidence of a crime. Otherwise, it takes a court order to seize the property.

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