State News

Gun law bill passes Senate to store firearms safely

On Friday, April 28 the Vermont Senate passed a bill, H.230, “an act relating to implementing mechanisms to reduce suicide and community violence” on a vote of 21 to 9. 

The objective of the bill is to save lives by reducing gun violence by passing a safe storage provision, reducing the number of suicides by creating a 72-hour waiting period for firearm transfers and strengthening our red flag law by allowing concerned family members to petition the court for an extreme risk protection order.  Extreme emotions and access to unsecured firearms is a lethal combination. 

Anything we can do to create a buffer between the time of a gun purchase and being able to take the gun home, can help prevent impulsive acts of gun violence and will save lives. These are common sense safety measures which we hope will begin to stem the wave of suicides and domestic violence homicides in Vermont.

Here are a few startling statistics about suicides and gun violence in Vermont.

There were 142 suicides in Vermont in 2021, and 83 of them were committed with a gun. The suicide rate among Vermont men and boys is 50% higher than the national average. Vermont has one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the country. Of deaths involving guns in Vermont in 2021, 89% were by suicide and 8% were by homicide.

Deeply disturbing is the fact that Vermont children are 4.4 times more likely to die by suicide in a home with a firearm compared to a home without one. About half of all homicides in Vermont between 1994-2021 were a result of domestic violence. And, since 1994, more than half of the domestic violence homicides were committed by firearm. 

Gun violence is a public health crisis in Vermont. 

The passage of this bill meant a great deal to me. In 2010 Bob Williamson introduced me to Professor Ge Wu, the mother of 15-year-old Aaron, who had committed suicide with an unsecured gun in April 2009. Aaron was going through a tough time at school, and he knew of a family which did not secure their guns. Professor Wu came to Legislature to ask us to pass a safe storage bill so that there would be fewer preventable suicides. As the mother of two young men, I was very moved by Ge Wu’s story and her campaign to prevent future tragedies. Ever since, I have sponsored numerous safe storage bills. Preventing a problem, as opposed to spending time and energy fixing it, has always made good policy sense to me.

H.230 institutes a “negligent firearm storage” provision — which means that a person is criminally liable if their unsecured firearm is used by someone to commit a crime, or to threaten someone, or if child or prohibited person gains access to the gun and uses it to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person. Twenty-four other states require safe storage of firearms in some capacity – and Vermont is the last state in New England without a law preventing children’s access to guns. 

Likewise, extending the waiting period to 72 hours is a meaningful improvement to Vermont’s firearm laws. In July of 2014, my husband’s esteemed colleague at Vermont Law School, Professor Cheryl Hanna, committed suicide with a firearm she purchased the day before. Who knows if more time had been put between her purchasing the gun and being able to take it home and use it, would have been a sufficient deterrent to her death. We can only hope. But maybe that 72-hour delay would have meant that her husband and two children would have their wife and mother at home with them today.  

Sen. Clarkson can be reached by email: or by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri) 802-828-2228 or at home (Sat-Mon) 802- 457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont Legislature, and the bills which have been proposed and passed, visit the legislative website:

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