Gun Control Bill Introduced In Montpelier

Jan 22, 2015

Lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would expand background checks for private gun sales and require Vermont courts to report some mentally ill Vermonters to the national background check system.

The bill has been discussed at length outside of the statehouse for weeks, but lawmakers finally have details to debate.

The proposal from Senate President John Campbell, Sen. Philip Baruth and Sen. Claire Ayer, calls for nearly universal background checks for private gun sales in Vermont. Currently, only federally licensed dealers are required to conduct the background checks.

The legislation would not require background checks for the gun sales between immediate family members or to military and law enforcement agencies and officials working in their official capacities.

The bill would also require courts to report individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System when they were determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or other and when someone is found incompetent for trial due to a mental illness.

Such reports would not be subject to public records disclosure, the bill said, and those banned from gun ownership over mental health issues would be able to petition the state attorney general’s office to have the restriction removed.

The Vermont Press Bureau reports that Gov. Peter Shumlin voiced opposition to the bill Thursday, but didn’t promise a veto.

“Vermont is currently well-served by the laws we have on the books. I want to keep what we have in place. Obviously, the Legislature is going to debate all kinds of issues. This will be one of them. We always welcome a robust debate. My feeling is the gun laws that we have in Vermont are the ones that we should keep,” he said. “Federal law precludes them from buying guns. I would hope that we would enforce the law.”

The governor refused to say Thursday if he would veto the legislation if it clears the House and Senate and reaches his desk.

“I never issue veto threats unless I am going to veto a bill. Let’s let the process work and have the debate,” he said.

The bill was introduced Thursday and referred to the Senate Judiciary committee, chaired by Sen. Dick Sears of Bennington.