The Week Ahead: Gun Control Bills Take Center Stage At The Statehouse

Mar 19, 2018

During the course of the week, the House is scheduled to review a Senate bill that raises the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21.

The proposal also includes a universal background check.

At the same time, the Senate will consider a House plan to allow police officers to temporarily confiscate a firearm in domestic violence cases.

Bennington Sen. Dick Sears is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sears says his panel will consider an amendment that gives law enforcement officials the authority to take a firearm under certain specific circumstances.

"We feel that in and of itself, it will be a tremendous asset in terms of domestic violence cases being given a higher priority within the courts." — Sen. Dick Sears

The first is that the weapon must be in plain sight or discovered after a consensual search.

"Make clear that the police officer could take firearms that were clearly visible for example on the table or even hanging on the wall,” said Sears.

Sears says the proposal also requires that a court hearing be held the next business day to allow for due process.

"So that it's almost immediate that the judge can look at the probable cause, the state's attorney, the defense attorney, whomever, can look at whether or not there's probable cause," said Sears.

Chloe White is the Policy Director at Vermont ACLU. She says the compromise is generally a good approach.

"The proposed amendment to the bill is really a step up in terms of protection of constitutional rights while still looking to the aim of the bill which is to ensure the protection of domestic violence victims and their families." — Chloe White, Vermont ACLU

"The proposed amendment to the bill is really a step up in terms of protection of constitutional rights while still looking to the aim of the bill, which is to ensure the protection of domestic violence victims and their families,” said White.

Senator Sears says the legislation is an important way to highlight the issue of domestic violence in Vermont.

"We feel that in and of itself it will be a tremendous asset in terms of domestic violence cases being given a higher priority within the courts,” said Sears. 

Sears says he hopes that his committee will be able to vote on the bill later this week but he says that it might be difficult to achieve this goal: The Senate is scheduled to be on the floor debating a number of key issues for most of the week.