Vermont won’t pass gun legislation before March break
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Legislature won’t pass gun legislation before lawmakers head home for their mid-session break as Republican Gov. Phil Scott had requested, but they have made the issue a focus of their deliberations during the current session.
The House passed a piece of gun legislation Thursday, but it was different from the version the Senate unanimously passed. So, lawmakers will revisit the issue when they return to Montpelier on March 13.
On Friday, a clearly frustrated Democratic State Sen. Richard Sears, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he had been hoping both chambers could unanimously agree on the measure passed by the Senate that would allow police to take guns from people in dangerous situations with a judge’s order.
Sears said the bill, which had the support of both gun rights organizations and those seeking gun control, wasn’t perfect but it was a step.
“I was hoping that the Legislature would follow the governor’s lead and pass a bill this week that would have 180 to nothing vote,” Sears said. “Instead, certain folks decided that wasn’t possible.”
But Democratic State Rep. Martin LaLonde, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which made changes to the Senate proposal, said some members of the committee didn’t think it went far enough. It was combined with other legislation that was eventually passed by the House on Thursday.
Vermont has a high level of gun ownership and perhaps the weakest gun control laws in the country. But it also has a low level of gun violence. For decades, lawmakers have refused to consider any significant gun restrictions for the state.
That changed two weeks ago after police arrested an 18-year-old Poultney man suspected of planning to shoot up the Fair Haven Union School. After reading a detailed description of the man’s plan, Scott said he would consider gun safety measures as part of a broader discussion about preventing violence.
He called on lawmakers to have a piece of legislation on his desk by Friday.
Sears said the Fair Haven case, which came a day after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, could turn into one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of the Statehouse.
While no legislation will reach the governor’s desk on Friday, both the House and Senate are continuing to work on gun legislation.