Sears critiques handling of gun storage proposal, fee bill passes

The Senate Friday gave final approval to the fee bill, but only after Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, gave a short speech criticizing the way the bill was handled.

“Once in a while here, even after many years, you learn that something you did you should not repeat,” the Bennington Democrat said. “And that is putting what should have been a stand-alone bill into this (fee) bill and it certainly wasn’t a decision made by myself or the Finance Committee.”

This year’s fee bill, typically a routine measure, sparked a gun rights debate because it included a section creating a system for storing firearms, ammunition or weapons of people ordered not to possess them as the result of a relief from abuse order.

The gun storage measure was folded into the fee bill to preclude the addition of other gun-related amendments.

The bill passed the House with little fanfare. But it was the subject of heated debate in the Senate over the course of several weeks during the second half of the session.

Although the Senate Finance Committee vets the fee bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on it because the firearms storage section was essentially a criminal justice measure.

Sears lamented several times in committee that he sacrificed other House bills in order to work on the gun storage section.

“I think it’s a lesson for all of us for the future,” Sears told his colleagues Friday morning.

It is unclear who exactly put the firearms section in the fee bill, although it does contain a fee.

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration early in the session brokered a deal between the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, who pushed for this measure.

Other gun rights groups, however, did not support it and spoke out in hearings before Sears’ committee.

Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, Judiciary Committee vice chairman, voted against the bill on the second and third reading, saying Thursday that committees failed to take enough testimony from police about storing guns. Judiciary Committee member Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, also voted no on the third reading.

Laura Krantz


  1. Jim Barrett :

    This has to do wtih REVENUE referred to here as FEE……….just more taxation of the slaves in this state of more taxes.

  2. This bill also takes away rights of the accused. There is no language in the “fee” Bill for someone that is found innocent. So if you are charged will a domestic Violence crime but 6-8 weeks later you are found innocent or the charges are dropped you still are on the hook for the storage fee’s. Why should a person be penalized if they are innocent. None of our Representatives seem to care about peoples rights. What happened to innocent until proven guilty.

    • Jason knapp :

      You don’t even need to be charged with a crime. All that is needed is an accusation and a temporary restraining order place on someone which happens without the accused even knowing. The accused has no chance to face his accuser until the permanent relief from a use hearing hence there is NO due process. This bill creates new unconstitutional law. Ridiculous the way this was handled. So much for the bill of rights

  3. Ed Fisher :

    Any good reason for a tax , right Gov.-Shummy ! Joe , I’m a little surprised , however diversion of intended issues for the benefit of taxation ! Always a good mission !

  4. The voting record should indicate those for whom a NO vote should be cast next time around.

    I stand as a single issue voter.

    I vote for liberty.



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