By Morgan True, VTDigger.org
A public hearing on proposed firearms legislation before the Senate Judiciary and the Senate Health and Welfare committees drew several hundred people to Montpelier Tuesday, Feb. 10. Supporters wearing green Gunsense Vermont T-shirts were outnumbered by opponents wearing blaze orange clothing.
S.31 would make it a crime to sell a gun privately without the supervision of a licensed dealer, who would perform a background check on the purchaser. It would also allow state-level prosecutors to enforce federal firearm possession laws and it would require Vermont to report the names of people with mental illness who a judge has ruled are a danger to themselves or others to the National Instant Background Checks System—the database used to check if someone is able to purchase a gun.
One hundred eight people signed up to testify. Of those, 67 were opposed and 43 were in favor, although not all were able to speak during the two-and-a-half hour hearing.
Twice during the hearing, Senators took a recess when the bill’s opponents could not contain their cheers and applause for like-minded speakers.
Tim Bombardier, chief of police in Barre, said the Vermont Chiefs of Police Association does not support S.31 because the chiefs aren’t convinced it will reduce domestic violence-related gun deaths.
Bombardier did say that the association could support stand-alone legislation that required reporting people with mental illness who a judge has ruled are a danger to themselves or others to the federal background check database.
Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, the primary sponsor of S.31, said it’s too early to say whether he would consider splitting the bill into its component sections and attempting to pass them individually.