Vermont Business Magazine On February 22, Governor Phil Scott returned without signature and vetoed S.30, "An act relating to prohibiting possession of firearms within hospital buildings." The governor, referring to the sweeping gun laws he signed into law in 2018, said in the veto letter to the Legislature that, "It's my belief that we need to give these new provisions more time to be fully understood and utilized, and that the Legislature should focus on educating Vermonters on these changes – and on addressing Vermont’s mental health crisis – before additional gun laws are passed."
As for the “Charleston Loophole” provision of the bill, that it should have some time requirement for the government to do a background check. He suggested seven business days instead of the 30 now contained in the bill or the three required federal law.
In response, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint (D-Windham) said in part (see her full response below): “Fundamentally, this bill is about keeping guns out of the hands of people with histories of domestic abuse or other dangerous behavior. I’m surprised Governor Scott wouldn’t support that, and I have serious concerns about the Governor’s proposal on the Charleston Loophole.”
The votes in the Legislature to pass the bill were very close, but not over, the override margin of two-thirds. If the Legislature chose to try and override the veto, they would take a new vote on that. If successful, the bill would become law.
Scott sent the following letter to the General Assembly explaining his decision and outlining a path forward:
February 22, 2022
The Honorable John Bloomer, Jr.
Secretary of the Senate
115 State House
Montpelier, VT 05633-5401
Dear Mr. Bloomer:
Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I’m returning S. 30, An act relating to prohibiting possession of firearms within hospital buildings without my signature.
In 2018, I called for and signed the most comprehensive gun safety measures in our state’s history. We established universal background check requirements; authorized extreme risk protection orders (i.e., “red flag” laws), providing tools to prevent someone from having a gun if there is credible evidence they may harm themselves or others; strengthened the ability of law enforcement to seize firearms from those accused of domestic violence; enhanced age requirements; and prohibited the sale and possession of bump stocks and large capacity magazines. This was a comprehensive, and historic, set of policies that take reasonable steps to help keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them. It's my belief that we need to give these new provisions more time to be fully understood and utilized, and that the Legislature should focus on educating Vermonters on these changes – and on addressing Vermont’s mental health crisis – before additional gun laws are passed.
However, as I’ve also said, I’m open to a discussion about improving existing law to address the so-called “Charleston Loophole” and I’m offering a path forward below. This refers to a provision in federal law that provides automatic approval to someone who is buying a gun if a federal background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (also known as NICS) doesn’t produce a “red light” (i.e., reporting they are ineligible) within three business days.
S. 30 increases that timeframe from three days to an unlimited amount of time without acknowledging that an application expires in 30 days. So instead of holding the federal government accountable to complete the background check in a timely manner, it shifts all the burden away from government – where responsibility was intentionally placed in federal law – entirely onto the citizen. Law abiding citizens who become the victims of a government administrative error must themselves gather all applicable law enforcement and court records and try to understand and navigate a complex maze of federal bureaucratic process to try to rectify their “yellow” status.
For these reasons, I believe going from three to effectively 30 days is excessive and unreasonable for law-abiding citizens who wish to purchase a firearm for their own personal safety or for other lawful and constitutionally protected purposes.
However, I’m willing to work with the Legislature to find a path forward that gives the federal government more time to fulfill its obligations to complete background checks, without denying law-abiding citizens of their right to a fair and reasonable process.
A more reasonable standard would be to increase the current three-day waiting period to seven business days to allow the federal government additional time to resolve issues and make a final determination.
Given this bill’s effective date of July 1, 2022, the Legislature has ample time to address my concerns and send me a bill I can sign.
Based on the objections outlined above I’m returning this legislation without my signature pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution.
Philip B. Scott
To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2022 legislative session, click here.
Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint issued the following statement on Governor Phil Scott's veto of S.30, a gun safety bill:
“The Governor just vetoed S.30, a bill that closes the Charleston Loophole, protects victims of domestic violence, and keeps guns out of our hospitals.”
“The “Charleston Loophole” is a loophole in the background check law that allows people to buy firearms without a completed background check. What happened in the tragic 2015 murder of worshipers in a church in Charleston South Carolina, is that a white supremacist was sold a gun before he had a completed background check, which would have revealed him to be prohibited from possessing a gun. This bill would prevent that from happening again.”
“The bill also takes important steps to protect victims of domestic violence in Vermont by clarifying that a judge can order an abuser to give up their firearms and prohibit them from possessing a gun in the emergency Relief From Abuse process.”
“Fundamentally, this bill is about keeping guns out of the hands of people with histories of domestic abuse or other dangerous behavior. I’m surprised Governor Scott wouldn’t support that, and I have serious concerns about the Governor’s proposal on the Charleston Loophole.”
“Our intent in the Senate was to truly close the loophole, so guns couldn’t get into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. The Governor’s proposal leaves it open. This proposal could be particularly risky to victims of domestic violence, as it takes an average of close to 10 days for federal background check denials related to domestic violence.”
“I'm discussing next steps with my colleagues in the Senate and in the House. I will keep fighting for all the protections we’ve put in place. We know Vermonters want to see these sensible efforts to prevent gun violence.”
2.22.2022. Montpelier, VT www.vermont.gov