Legislation to establish a 24-hour waiting period for all handgun sales in Vermont could be on its way to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk after the House approved the measure Wednesday.
Lawmakers voted 82-58 in favor of Senate Bill 169, which cleared the Senate last month. The margin in Wednesday’s vote does not represent the two-thirds majority needed to override a potential veto by Scott, who has not said whether he would allow it to become law.
The House is scheduled to meet again Thursday at 9:30 am.
Supporters of S169 claim a waiting period would help prevent suicides by making it more difficult for Vermonters in crisis to buy a handgun.
Rep. Martin LaLonde of South Burlington said the legislation would also help prevent homicides. He said that more than half of all homicides in Vermont are related to domestic violence, and that the most frequently used weapon is a firearm.
Opponents argue Vermonters would also have a harder time buying a handgun to protect themselves from domestic abuse — and that a waiting period would restrict Second Amendment rights.
Rep. Felisha Leffler of Enosburg countered that “guns are tools, and tools are not the problem of our violence-prone society.
“I will not support this bill,” she said. “‘Shall not be infringed’ is not subjective.”
One lawmaker says a waiting period would cause attendance at gun shows to plummet and threaten the existence of private gun clubs.
Rep. Francis McFaun of Barre Town said the 100-year-old Barre Fish & Game Club may have to close if the law is passed. He proposed an amendment to grant gun shows an exception.
“They personally feel that there’s an unintended consequence that comes out of this waiting period, and they feel their community activities will be curtailed,” McFaun said.
The House voted down the exception. LaLonde said the Senate had gun shows in mind when it wrote the bill.
“They selected the 24-hour period, and extending the waiting period only to handguns, having it not extend to long guns, in part because gun shows would not be as impacted,” LaLonde said.