MONTPELIER — It looks as though a bill requiring safe storage for guns will not move forward in the Senate while a potential waiting period for gun purchases is still up in the air.
The Senate Judiciary Committee continued to hear testimony Wednesday on multiple gun bills. But the bill that has seen the most attention is one that would require a 48-hour waiting period on gun purchases. The bill would also require a gun to be stored safely when not in the immediate possession or control of its owner.
The committee held a public forum on the gun bills at Vermont Technical College in Randolph on Tuesday night. Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, one of the main sponsors of the bill and a member of the committee, said Wednesday multiple people told the committee there’s nothing wrong with keeping a loaded firearm at their bedside table.
“There’s a fairly common idea among gun owners that it should be OK to have a loaded weapon where a child could get it,” he said.
Baruth said based on the testimony he’s heard, the state isn’t ready for a safe storage law for gun ownership. Committee members have commented on how difficult such a provision would be to enforce. He said he would support the bill without that provision.
Baruth has heard testimony in support of a waiting period, specifically that it would create a “cooling off” time for people buying guns to do harm to themselves or to others. Opponents to the measure say people should have immediate access to guns to protect themselves and say waiting periods create an unnecessary roadblock toward a constitutional right.
Committee member Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, bristled during the discussion, saying he’d been “sold out”: He said the same people who supported an extreme risk protection order law are now asking for waiting periods on gun purchases.
“After having listened to victims’ advocates clearly telling us about five days after a breakup (being the most dangerous) in domestic violence situations, I went not just to this committee several times. I went to the governor’s office. I went to the speaker of the house. I’d been to the caucuses on both sides, and I begged and pleaded for us to come to unity and universally vote (on the orders),” he said.
Benning said he thinks a waiting period and safe storage requirement would place obstacles in the way of domestic violence victims. He said the bill assumes a given number of hours could impact a person’s decision.
Benning said he recently acquired a rifle from a family member that now hangs over his door frame. He said based on how the bill is written, he would be violating the law.
“I’ll tell ya, I’ve really reached the point where I say, ‘Come on and arrest me.’ This is going too far. I can’t for the life of me support any one of those provisions,” he said.
Benning said he would make similar comments to the Senate if the bill came to the floor.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the chairman of the committee, said he wasn’t sure how he was going to vote on the bill.