The Vermont House chamber was packed swith orange-clad supporters of gun rights Tuesday as the Judiciary Committee heard public comments on a bill to require a 24-hour waiting period to buy a handgun.
The state Senate recently said approved Senate Bill 169, which supporters say would help prevent suicides. Opponents, however, say it imposes restrictions on their 2nd Amendment rights
Marie Leotta of Waitsfield says a 24-hour waiting period before buying a handgun would do little to reduce suicides, while inconveniencing gun buyers.
“Suicide is a symptom of an illness, as is the problem of every school shooter that has killed in gun-free zones,” said. “The only one winning here is an anti-self-defense mindset that guns are the problem, not the people.”
Martin VanBuren, Jr, a sporting goods store owner from Poultney, says that with the state’s high rate of firearm ownership and robust gun safety education programs, a waiting period isn’t needed.
“2017 FBI crime stats — the latest available — show that Vermont has the second-lowest violent crime rate in the nation,” . said. “Maine is lowest; New Hampshire is the third-lowest.”
Rob Black of Essex, whose 23-year-old son, Andrew, committed suicide with a handgun in December, testified in favor of the waiting period bill. He claims the measure would save lives by making handguns more difficult for people in crisis to acquire.
Laurie Emerson, president of the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says research in the field bears this out.
“The interval between deciding to act and attempting suicide can be as short as five to ten minutes, and people tend not to substitute a different method when a highly lethal method is unavailable or difficult to access,” she said.
The House Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a vote on Senate Bill 169 yet.
Many of the supporters who testified at the hearing called on the House to extend the proposed waiting period to 72 hours and to apply it to all firearms, not only handguns.