RANDOLPH, Vt. – Dozens of gun-rights advocates turned out in Randolph on Tuesday for a public hearing on five gun-related bills being considered by Vermont lawmakers.
Clad in hunter orange, they offered up most of the public comment before the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee, with Senate Bill 22 one of their top priorities.
The bill would create a 48-hour waiting period for all firearms sales and impose new restrictions on firearm storage. Milton resident Scott Champman said S 22 is “nothing but discrimination for anyone who wants to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
“We are being told that we need to limit our rights for the health and welfare of others,” he said.
Many of the gun rights advocates at Tuesday’s hearing wore pearl necklaces. Last week, several Republican members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives wore them during a hearing on a gun-related bill.
A few supporters of the new restrictions took to the microphone amidst the sea of orange. Several referenced testimony last month by the parents of Andrew Black, a 23 year-old who died by suicide in December.
Black’s family urged legislators to support a 48-hour waiting period, according to news reports, saying it would have saved their son. GunSense Vermont, which supports the measure, said “the ease with which a person in crisis can obtain a gun in Vermont is a significant factor” in the number of suicides each year.
Laurie Emerson, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont, said the waiting period would give people considering suicide by gun an opportunity to rethink the decision.
“Suicide is a community health issue,” she said. “That’s why we’re calling on you as Vermont lawmakers to pass common sense legislation that will address suicide prevention.”
Bruce MacLean of Peacham, a hunter, testified that he supported the legislation.
“A 48-hour waiting period will prevent some people from taking that impulsive act,” he said, “and I also believe it will not impact my ability to go out into the woods and hunt, nor anyone else in this state who is a law-abiding citizen.”
Critics, however, said a 48-hour waiting period would accomplish little if anything. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action has argued that S.22 will have “virtually no impact on public safety or suicide prevention.”
A gun-rights supporter, Devon Craig of Plainfield, testified that his father and brother committed suicide with a gun, which he called “inevitable.”
“A waiting period would only delay the inevitable,” he said. “I witnessed most of Mr. and Mrs. Black’s testimony. The planned suicide of their son is tragic, I know.”
If the Senate Judiciary Committee approves any of the bills by March 15, they would be able to move to a full Senate vote this year.