Vermont gov. hopes gun seizure bill can pass this week

March 1, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday he remained hopeful the state Legislature could give final approval this week to what would be a historic law allowing police to seize firearms from people deemed to be dangerous.

The House would have to make some procedural changes to pass the legislation approved by the Senate before lawmakers leave on Friday for the weeklong Town Meeting Day break, but Scott said he felt it was worth the effort. He hopes the bill can reach his desk by late Friday.

“There is still a way to do it, there really is,” Scott said during his weekly news conference at the Statehouse on Thursday, noting the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 30-0.

In the past, Vermont has been reluctant to pass any significant gun ownership restrictions.

The House has already passed a separate proposal that would make it easier to take guns away from dangerous individuals than the Senate proposal, which would require a judge’s order. It remains unclear if the bills will be merged or if they will be considered separately. Scott said he favored the House version as well.

“From my standpoint, right now, standing here today, if there is any consensus on one of them, let’s get it done,” Scott said. “Let’s send a message that we’re taking this seriously and everyone is on board.”

Most likely, lawmakers would have to focus just on the Senate bill, known as an “extreme risk protection order.” Lawmakers could work on other gun-control measures when they return to the Statehouse in mid-March.

On Thursday, the Senate also gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would require background checks for private gun sales.

Prospects were not good for any gun control legislation until last month, when Vermont police broke up what investigators believe was a plan by a Poultney teenager to shoot up the Fair Haven Union School. The teenager’s arrest came one day after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

Previously, Scott had not favored any specific gun legislation.

But on Thursday, the governor said he also thought the Legislature should consider raising the minimum age to buy firearms to 21 as well as banning bump stocks, devices used to increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm.

“I’m all ears,” he said.

Update hourly