by Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont House Tuesday evening passed landmark gun violence protection measures in Senate bill S55 on a vote of 89 to 54, with tri-partisan support. The preliminary vote last Friday night was 85-59. The bill now must go back to the Senate, where it also passed, but without the bump stock and magazine limit provisions. The Senate could approve the changes or further amend the bill or send it to a conference committee, where it could also change. It would then go to the governor, who wants to sign a gun control bill with the House provisions, but who also wants to see what the final version looks like before he commits. At press time, it appeared the final version would not get to his desk before the first week in April.
The House version of S55 incorporates:
- Expanding background check requirements to unlicensed (or private) firearm sales, including a provision that provides immunity to Federal Firearm Licensees that provide background check services in unlicensed (private) sales;
- Requiring purchasers of long guns to be 21 years or older, unless they have taken a hunter safety course (which is already required to obtain a hunting license), are a veteran, are a law enforcement official, or are in the military. This puts long guns on par with handguns. Under federal law one must be at least 21 to purchase handguns.
- Banning the purchase and possession of bump stocks effective October 1, 2018; and
- Banning the purchase of high-capacity magazines while excluding antiques, replicas and long guns with lever or bolt action. Possession of high-capacity magazines that were purchased before the enactment date is grandfathered.
“This bill is a step in the right direction,” said Representative Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington). “Banning bump stock attachments that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons is common sense. Automatic weapons are already prohibited and it’s time that we act to ensure these attachments are as well. Additionally, banning the purchase of high-capacity magazines is a check on the number of rounds a person can fire. When we talk about keeping our schools and communities safe, this provision is the most important step this bill takes. As a hunter, I see this as common sense gun safety legislation.”
Representative Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee said, “S.55 ensures that guns remain in the hands of those who should have them by decreasing the opportunities to obtain firearms for those who intend to harm themselves or others.”
“Our communities can’t be safe if we allow guns to be sold to felons or the dangerously mentally ill,” said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson. “That’s why current law requires that no gun can be sold by a licensed gun dealer without a criminal background check. Currently, hundreds of guns are sold by unlicensed sellers at gun shows and through the internet with no background check. This bill makes a simple change in the law in order to cover all gun sales. The few minutes it takes to complete a computerized check will save lives. Support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with protecting Vermonters and keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We’ve heard the call for action from Vermonters over the last several weeks and took a strong step forward today with the passage of this bill. We look forward to working with the Senate and with the Governor as this bill moves to the final stages of passage.”
Meanwhile, Representative James Harrison (R-Chittenden) explained his vote on the record as follows: “Madam Speaker: At each of the town meetings I attended earlier this month, I told members of our district that I would support measures that I believed would make a difference but would not favor those proposals that I felt were either offered for political purposes or would not work. I appreciated the work of the House Judiciary committee as they tried to find the right balance. I supported a few provisions of S. 55, and opposed others. In the end, S. 55 did not find the right balance for me and I voted no.”
Representative Norris (I-Shoreham) explained his vote as follows: “Madam Speaker: I voted no on S. 55. I heard from many of my constituents, mostly from the FHUHS district, that this bill would do nothing to make our schools safer. I believe we pushed this bill through to make it look like we were doing something but in reality it will prevent nothing. We need to look further into why these young adults feel so angry with their fellow students and work to make schools safer, this bill doesn’t address that.”
Representative Paul Poirier of I-Barre City explained his vote as follows: “Madam Speaker: I voted no for all the many law abiding gun owners who live in Barre City that may become criminals for possession of a legal firearm.”
* Vote explained into the record. Click HERE.
Source: Speaker. S55 Record. 3.27.2018