MONTPELIER — The gun debate raged on at the State House Tuesday.
One side said proposed legislation for a 24-hour waiting period for handgun sales would help reduce suicides in the state while the other said it won’t accomplish anything except for infringing on people’s rights.
The Vermont House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing at the State House on S.169, a bill that’s been passed out of the Senate that would impose the waiting period if passed into law. There were more opponents of the bill than supporters in attendance judging by those who wore hunter orange shirts as a symbol of their support of the Second Amendment.
Many of those who supported the bill wanted the committee to extend the waiting period to 72 hours. A House bill had been introduced to do just that and the Senate’s version originally called for a 48-hour waiting period. It also called for the waiting period to apply to all gun sales, but the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to limit the waiting period to handguns only. Supporters said they wanted the waiting period to again cover all gun sales.
Rob Black is the father of Andrew Black, 23, of Essex, who shot and killed himself in December after buying a handgun from a licensed seller a few hours prior. Rob Black and his wife Alyssa made national headlines after they talked about their son’s death in his obituary and asked for a waiting period on gun purchases.
“I can’t tell you how many, but I can tell you this law will save lives,” Rob Black said.
Opponent Ed Wilson said the Legislature is made up of people “who just don’t like guns.” Wilson said those at the State House want to do anything possible to make it more difficult to own, buy and use guns.
He said legislators are willing to break their oaths to protect the Vermont Constitution in order to so.
“Tonight there will be people here who profess to be hunters and gun owners who will tell us they see nothing wrong with this law on their ability to shoot a deer. I’d like to remind them the Second Amendment was about shooting tyrants, not deer,” he said.
Supporter Thomas Ely is the bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont. Ely said he’s also a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of over 80 Episcopal bishops working to stop gun violence in the United States.
“I know that not everyone who purchases a gun intends to do violence to themselves, or others, but sadly some do. Strengthening the provisions of S.169 to include a 72-hour waiting period on all gun purchases might slightly inconvenience some and yet could well save the life of someone you or I know and love. Once a gun, any kind of gun, has been used to end one’s life, inflict injury or take the life of another, there is no waiting time left to offer — only regret and mourning time,” he said.
Opponent Rob Reed quoted former Gov. John Weeks in his inaugural address: “Our God-given rights, as enshrined in the U.S. and Vermont Constitution, are not open for negotiation. They cannot be legislated away nor can they be regulated away.”
He said any person, organization or government attempt to do so will be met with the strongest resistance.
“Suicide is a horrible thing. My rights are my rights,” Reed said.