The committee convened around 9 and began with the initial reading and breakdown of the bill. The first part of the bill “eliminates the default proceed” procedure on a firearm sale if the FBI can’t complete your “instant” background check within the 3-day period. Given the FBI has let some 1.1 million background checks go uncompleted since 2014, this law could see law abiding citizens indefinitely stripped of their right to buy a gun by sheer bureaucracy and government incompetence.
The second part is a bit redundant and does a couple things. First it expands the list of prohibited persons to include people subject to relief from abuse orders (RFO’s) and imposes additional restrictions, most notably that the defendant may not reside at a residence where guns are present. Hypothetically, under this law, someone having an argument with their spouse where an RFA has been filed, could not go stay at a friend’s house to cool off if that friend had a gun in the home. It also expands the list of people who can request an Extreme Risk Protection Order or ERPO, more commonly known as a Red Flag, to include medical professionals and family members / members of household. Basically, they want to find a way so as many people as possible can petition the court to take away your guns for as many reasons as possible.
Moving on to the hearing, the first speaker was State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan who praised the bill’s “potential to save lives” by keeping guns away from domestic abusers. A notable part of his testimony included that domestic abuse victims often don’t come forward out of fear because they had to return home to their abuser after filing a report. He stated that taking the firearms from an accused domestic abuser would make the victims feel safer and more likely to come forward. Apparently, he hadn’t considered the idea that the abuser would still take it out on the victim when they returned home, but more enraged by having his grandad’s hunting rifle confiscated by the police. He unironically posed the question “does a piece of paper make you feel safe?”
Next up was Sarah Robinson, MSW, Deputy Director, Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence who spoke at length about how statistics show that despite Vermont’s overall, low violent crime rate, we apparently have a tremendous problem with domestic violence and firearm deaths resulting thereof. Interestingly, despite the fact that this bill had been available for public review for approximately 48 hours, she seemed very familiar with all aspects and wordings of the bill, (almost like her agency has had the wording for months now, dare I suggest such a thing) and of course, highly supported it to the letter.
After a short break we reconvened at which point the pro-gun people were told that due to the large number of people on the agenda, we likely wouldn’t receive much time today if any. Next up was Kaegan Mays-Williams, Counsel, Everytown for Gun Safety, (a paid, out-of-state lobbyist.) She also spoke at length about closing loopholes, domestic violence and extreme risk, all while heaping gratuitous praise on a beaming Maxine Grad and Martin LaLonde and their “courage” for Vermont being one of the states to already have enacted ERPOs and other gun control. She pointed out that with this new wording, Vermont would join Delaware and New Jersey as having the strongest worded Red Flag laws in the country.
Around noon the committee adjourned with the promise to return to the subject next week. A few committee members seemed unimpressed by the bill but otherwise the testimony seemed well received by most of the committee.
We might have our hands full with this one. Stay tuned.
Eric Davis Vice President Gun Owners of Vermont