Currently in Vermont there is no law prohibiting individuals who are accused of domestic violence from possessing a firearm but that could all change if a new bill makes it through the Statehouse.
A House bill would require police to confiscate dangerous and deadly weapons from a person who is arrested or cited for domestic assault with a weapon.
“All that we have in state statute is the conviction of a violent crime, we don’t have anything related to final relief from abuse order or temporary relief from abuse order with regard to removal of weapons,” said Vermont Network Executive Director Auburn Watersong.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Judiciary heard testimony on the bill. Watersong says the group supports the bill.
“The lives of victims of domestic violence literally depend on our state’s ability to keep firearms out of the hands of those who choose to use guns for violence,” said Watersong.
According to the 2016 Vermont Domestic Fatality Report, between 1994 and 2015, there were 131 domestic violence related deaths, 59% of them involved a firearm. Currently there are 13 states with a similar law in place.
“In those states where they have laws that require abusers to surrender their firearms, they have a 9% to 12% lower rate of intimate partner homicides there is an actual direct effect that we see on the reduction of homicide,” said Vermont Commission on Women Executive Director Cary Brown.
In Vermont, weapons can only be taken from someone as a result of a court order after a conviction. Opponents believe it’s sufficient.
“That’s the easy way of doing it, it’s clearly constitutional what is in place right now where as there are significant constitutional questions about this particular piece of legislation,” explained Kerri Johnson, of the Vermont Defender General’s office.
Johnson also believes the term ‘deadly weapon’ is too broad.
“You know what is that going to mean to officers who are responding to the scene and what volume of stuff is that going to mean,” said Johnson.
The House Committee on Judiciary plans to hear more testimony on the bill over the next several weeks.