By Colin Meyn
Gov. Phil Scott was set to sign a trio of gun bills into law on Wednesday, less than two months after the arrest of a teenager allegedly plotting to shoot up a Vermont high school inspired him to publicly reverse his position on gun control.
Having previously said he felt there was no need for new gun legislation, Scott said a thwarted shooting in Fair Haven opened his eyes to the threat facing Vermont’s children, and his own responsibility to protect them.
The governor’s office said he will sign the three bills in a ceremony with administration members, legislators and victims’ right advocates, capping what he has said is the first step in an ongoing response to the issue.
The ceremony was to happen as the Shelburne News and The Citizen were headed to press on Wednesday.
The bills include two that expand police powers to seize guns when responding to domestic violence and other “extreme risk” situations. Another bill includes a series of more controversial gun control provisions, including a ban on high-capacity magazine that has proven particularly controversial.
Both S.221 and H.422 passed unanimously passed through the House and Senate. S.55 passed with a margin of 89-54 in the House and 17-13 in the Senate. All local representatives and Chittenden County senators voted “yea” on the bills.
The governor, a Republican, has said he is aware that he has disappointed many of his supporters with his support for the bill, but he felt compelled to pursue all options in protecting Vermonters against gun violence.
The measures include broadening background checks required for the purchase of firearms, and increasing the minimum age for gun purchases. The governor also has ordered a review of security at schools around the state, and he has launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of reporting suspicious behavior.
The ban on high-capacity gun magazines is contained in S.55, the most ambitious of the three bills. That bill has inspired a series of protests by gun rights groups that included a call to raise money to challenge the new law and a protest on the Statehouse lawn where gun activists handed out free gun magazines.