Politics

How the Senate voted on the gun control waiting period bill

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, listens as the Senate Judiciary Committee is briefed on several gun rights and gun safety bills being considered by the Legislature on Feb. 26. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

This is the second in a series of roll call vote analysis of the 2019 legislative session. The first was a roll call analysis of the House vote on abortion rights.

Once the Senate Judiciary Committee settled on a compromise last week for a gun purchase waiting period bill, S.169, it was widely viewed as a done deal in the full Senate.

And indeed it was. After a 3-2 vote out of committee, the bill was approved by a 20-10 vote in the full Senate on Thursday.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the Judiciary Committee chair, engineered the compromise as the swing vote in his committee. He essentially cut the initial bill in half, both in the length and scope of the waiting period.

He proposed a 24-hour wait for handgun purchases only. The bill as introduced by Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, would have mandated a 48-hour wait for all firearms.

Baruth said during committee debate that he felt the longer waiting period for handguns and rifles would be more effective, but would support the compromise as a step in the right direction. He voted to advance the bill with Sears and Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham.

When the bill hit the floor, it was critiqued from both sides. Sen. Ruth Hardy, D-Addison, said the “watered-down” bill didn’t go far enough, lambasting both the waiting period compromise and the decision to pull out a safe storage component.

Hardy said that students who rallied for gun restrictions at the Statehouse wanted a more significant change in the law, and she promised to push for additional gun safety laws next year.

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Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex/Orleans, represented the other side of the debate. He proposed a series of amendments to a high-capacity magazine ban passed last year, allowing out-of-state police officers and Vermonters at shooting competitions to possess the devices.

Despite four of his proposals ending up in the bill, Rodgers voted against it because of the waiting period. He said it represented a continued erosion of the constitutional right to self defense, and he questioned the praise of compromise, asking whether the same spirit would be applied to the coming debate over abortion rights.

Rodgers was joined in opposition by three other Democrats — Sen. Alice Nitka of Windsor, Sen. Bobby Starr of Essex/Orleans, and Sen. Dick Mazza of Grand Isle — and all the Senate Republicans.

The bill was approved on a voice vote on final reading, and now heads to the House and, if it passes, to Gov. Phil Scott, who has said he does not see a need for additional gun control this year, after he supported a major package of reforms last year.

In decades past, the chances of a gun control bill making it through the House and avoiding a veto from a Republican governor would have been almost zero. But last year proved that old thinking about the politics of gun control in Vermont no longer applies.

If Scott does veto the bill, it will need two-thirds support in both chambers for an override. The Senate has just enough votes to do it.

Gun Control Vote (S.169) — Yeas = 20, Nays = 10

 NameVoteTownDistrictParty
Tim AsheYeaBurlingtonChittenden DistrictDemocrat/Progressive
Becca BalintYeaBrattleboroWindham DistrictDemocrat
Philip BaruthYeaBurlingtonChittenden DistrictDemocrat/Progressive
Joe BenningNayLyndonCaledonia DistrictRepublican
Christopher BrayYeaNew HavenAddison DistrictDemocrat
Randy BrockNaySwantonFranklin DistrictRepublican
Brian CampionYeaBenningtonBennington DistrictDemocrat
Alison ClarksonYeaWoodstockWindsor DistrictDemocrat
Brian CollamoreNayRutland TownRutland DistrictRepublican
Ann CummingsYeaMontpelierWashington DistrictDemocrat
Ruth HardyYeaMiddleburyAddison DistrictDemocrat
Cheryl HookerYeaRutland CityRutland DistrictDemocrat/Progressive
Debbie IngramYeaWillistonChittenden DistrictDemocrat
Jane KitchelYeaDanvilleCaledonia DistrictDemocrat
Virginia "Ginny" LyonsYeaWillistonChittenden DistrictDemocrat
Mark A. MacDonaldYeaWilliamstownOrange DistrictDemocrat
Dick MazzaNayColchesterGrand Isle DistrictDemocrat
Dick McCormackYeaBethelWindsor DistrictDemocrat
James McNeilNayRutland TownRutland DistrictRepublican
Alice W. NitkaNayLudlowWindsor DistrictDemocrat
Corey ParentNaySt. Albans TownFranklin DistrictRepublican
Christopher A. PearsonYeaBurlingtonChittenden DistrictProgressive/Democrat
Andrew PerchlikYeaMontpelierWashington DistrictDemocrat/Progressive
Anthony PollinaYeaMiddlesexWashington DistrictProgressive/Democrat
John RodgersNayGloverEssex-Orleans DistrictDemocrat
Dick SearsYeaBenningtonBennington DistrictDemocrat
Michael SirotkinYeaSouth BurlingtonChittenden DistrictDemocrat
Robert StarrNayTroyEssex-Orleans DistrictDemocrat
Richard WestmanNayCambridgeLamoille DistrictRepublican
Jeanette K. WhiteYeaPutneyWindham DistrictDemocrat

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Colin Meyn

About Colin

Colin Meyn is VTDigger's managing editor. He spent most of his career in Cambodia, where he was a reporter and editor at English-language newspapers The Cambodia Daily and The Phnom Penh Post, and most recently at Southeast Asia Globe, a regional current affairs magazine. He is a native of Maine and studied journalism at Northwestern University.

Email: [email protected]

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