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Gun bill backers say Scott veto will cost lives

  • FILE - In this April 11, 2018, file photo, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott speaks before signing a gun restrictions bill on the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt. On Monday, June 10, 2019, Scott vetoed a bill that would have established a 24-hour waiting period to buy handguns. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter, File)

Associated Press
Published: 6/11/2019 10:31:43 PM
Modified: 6/11/2019 10:31:37 PM

MONTPELIER — Proponents of a Vermont bill that would have imposed a 24-hour waiting period to buy handguns say the veto by the Republican governor was a political move that will cost the lives of people contemplating suicide and victims of domestic violence.

The veto Monday by Gov. Phil Scott also drew condemnation from Democratic leaders of the Vermont House and Senate, which both passed legislation last month that contained the waiting period and a change to an unintended consequence of separate gun legislation signed into law by the governor last year.

While gun rights activists said they appreciate Scott’s veto, they are still upset by a series of gun control measures signed by the governor last year.

“This was nothing else but politics,” said Clai Lasher-Sommers, of the group Gun Sense Vermont, which had supported the legislation partly as a way to reduce the number of people who use firearms to take their own lives and prevent guns from being used in cases of domestic violence.

“When I went to bed, I just started crying,” Lasher-Sommers said Tuesday. “I know in my heart this bill would save lives.”

In his veto message, Scott said he did not believe the legislation’s waiting period would address the underlying causes of violence.

Instead, he pointed to the gun control legislation he signed last year that expanded background checks for gun purchases, increased the age to buy firearms from 18 to 21, made it easier to take firearms from those who may be a threat to themselves, others or in cases of domestic violence.

Scott urged the Legislature to work with him to strengthen the state’s mental health system, combat addiction and “provide every Vermonter with hope and economic opportunity.”

Last year, after what Vermont police said was a close call on a school shooting, Scott signed Vermont’s first significant gun ownership restrictions. The law raised the age to buy firearms, banned high-capacity magazines and made it easier to take guns from people who pose a threat.

Scott’s support enraged many in Vermont’s hunting and firearms community who felt he was betraying more than 200 years of tradition in which the state had few gun ownership restrictions.

Bill Moore, a firearms policy analyst for the Vermont Traditions Coalition who fought against the gun restrictions, said the waiting period legislation was a feel-good answer to a complicated question about mental health and the governor’s role in preventing suicide.

He said he felt the governor should have vetoed the legislation last year.

“If he thinks he is going to gain our respect by vetoing this bill, we’ll give him our thanks, but it’s not like he’s going to gain our trust back,” Moore said.

And while Moore and others were not in favor of the waiting period, they were in favor of a section that would have closed an unintended consequence of last year’s legislation that would potentially criminalize out-of-state gun enthusiasts who bring high-capacity gun magazines to Vermont for shooting competitions.

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