By Anne Galloway, VTDigger.org
Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed legislation designed to keep guns away from dangerous criminals and people with severe mental illness.
The governor has said that he doesn’t believe Vermont would benefit from new gun laws, but Friday, May 1, he called the bill he signed a “shadow” of what was originally introduced, and said that it “makes common sense changes.”
The bill Shumlin signed, S.141, makes it a two-year misdemeanor for people with certain violent or drug dealing convictions to possess firearms, mirroring broader federal law that a carries a felony charge. The purpose is to allow state law enforcement officers to prosecute cases federal officials turn down, but which may still present a danger to the public.
It also requires people with mental illness found by a court be a danger to themselves or others to be reported to the FBI database of people prohibited from owning guns. The provision includes a legal process for people to have their right to have firearms reinstated.
The only person present at the signing was Rep. Sam Young, D-Glover, a proponent of the legislation. Young gave emotional testimony on the House floor last month in support of S.141.
During the House debate on the bill, Young told colleagues that his 23-year-old brother who had paranoid schizophrenia disappeared in 2004, and the family eventually learned that he had gone to a neighboring town to buy a gun before committing suicide.