Scott vetoes bill on gun purchases

Published: 6/10/2019 10:07:35 PM
Modified: 6/10/2019 10:07:30 PM

Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday evening that he has vetoed SB 169, gun control legislation that would have required Vermonters to wait 24-hours to buy a handgun.

He also signed HB 57, a bill that forbids the government from interfering in a woman’s decision to have an abortion at any stage in her pregnancy. The governor had already said he would let the abortion bill pass into law, though it was unclear if it would get his signature or not.

Scott had until midnight Monday to decide on the waiting-period legislation and midnight Tuesday to decide on the abortion bill.

Waiting period veto

“Last year, I called for and signed a package of historic gun safety reforms because I believe they make schools, communities, families and individuals safer, while upholding Vermonters’ constitutional rights,” Scott said in an emailed statement.

He listed the accomplishments of those reforms: universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, the ability of police to seize firearms from domestic violence situations and an increase in the minimum age to purchase guns from 18 to 21.

“With these measures in place, we must now prioritize strategies that address the underlying causes of violence and suicide. I do not believe S.169 addresses these areas,” the governor wrote.

The veto is Scott’s first of the session, after he matched the all-time record with 11 vetoes last year.

He refused to say in recent months whether he intended to let the waiting period pass into law, but said he was unsure if it would really help address suicide in Vermont.

“Moving forward,” Scott wrote on Monday, “I ask the Legislature to work with me to strengthen our mental health system, reduce adverse childhood experiences, combat addiction and provide every Vermonter with hope and economic opportunity.”

On the campaign trail in 2016, Scott pledged not to support any new gun control laws. His flip once in office infuriated gun rights groups, who pledged to get him out of office. But that didn’t happen, and a drop in his approval rating among Republicans did not do significant damage during elections, when he easily won the primary and general election on his way to a second term.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was disappointed by the governor’s veto.

Signs abortion bill

The governor’s decision to sign HB 57 means Vermont law, currently silent on abortion, will now have some of the broadest protections in the country.

“Like many Vermonters, I have consistently supported a woman’s right to choose, which is why today I signed H.57 into law,” Scott wrote in Monday’s statement.

“This legislation affirms what is already allowable in Vermont — protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider. I know this issue can be polarizing, so I appreciate the respectful tone and civility from all sides throughout this discussion.”

Rep. Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney, the House minority leader, was among the House Republicans who said the bill was too expansive because it failed to set any limits on when an abortion can be carried out or add extra regulations for teenagers.

“From my take on it, it doesn’t have as many bumpers as I would have liked to see on the bill,” McCoy said, adding that many in the Republican party would be disappointed.

“I think we have a lot of individuals who are pro life in the Republican party so I’m sure it will be upsetting for some, others would have liked him to pass without signing, but once again we are not the governor,” she added. “We voiced our concerns when we had the bill on the floor.”

The Vermont Right to Life Committee, a leading anti-abortion group, released a statement Monday expressing it’s frustration with the governor.

“By putting his signature on H. 57, Governor Phil Scott endorses unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy,” said Mary Beerworth, the group’s executive director. “His signature signals his preference for protecting the business of abortion over other life-affirming options in Vermont statute.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England issued a statement praising the actions of the House, Senate and the governor in supporting the “historic and common sense” legislation.

“Each and every day we see proof that abortion rights are on the line, and we cannot risk the threats to abortion access that we’re anticipating at the U.S. Supreme Court,” the statement read.

“We applaud Governor Scott for supporting reproductive rights and for taking action to preserve these rights in Vermont law.”

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