Conor Casey: Why wouldn’t we keep guns out of hospitals?

This commentary is by Conor Casey, executive director of GunSense Vermont.

Four years ago, I stood on the Statehouse lawn with hundreds of others as Gov. Scott made history by signing landmark legislation to curb gun violence. 

I was serving as executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party at the time, but was struck by the courage of a political adversary who had put partisanship aside to do what was right. In the wake of the Parkland shooting and, closer to home, a very near tragedy at Fair Haven High School. The governor was undeterred as a small but vocal group screamed “traitor” and taunted him.

That day represented the very best of Vermont. It also signified a shift in Vermont politics, where common-sense gun laws were no longer a third rail issue, and we could continue to make progress reducing gun violence. 

That’s why it was so disappointing when, only a year later, the governor vetoed a bill that would have created a waiting period for handguns. It seemed a seismic shift in policy from someone who only 14 months before had said, “Today we choose action, over inaction. Doing something, over doing nothing. Knowing that there will always be more work to do, today we chose to try.”

This week the governor will have the opportunity to choose action over inaction. S.30, the legislation currently sitting on his desk, is a small but meaningful step to save lives. Banning firearms in medical settings is the very least we can do to protect health care workers who have done so much to protect us over the course of this pandemic. 

Hospitals can be chaotic, emotionally charged environments and having guns present only increases the likelihood of a violent episode.

The bill will also close the “Charleston Loophole,” which is named for the horrific mass shooting at the Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. A background check would have disqualified the shooter, Dylann Roof, from purchasing a firearm, but because it took longer than 72 hours to complete, he was able to purchase the weapon that would take the lives of nine worshippers. 

Requiring that background checks be completed before firearms are sold will impact only 3% of buyers, but could very well be the difference in preventing a similar tragedy in Vermont.

Political courage may be in short supply nationally, but I like to think we’re different in Vermont. Whether it be Tropical Storm Irene, the pandemic or any other crisis we’ve faced, Vermonters come together when it means doing what’s right. 

This week, I hope Gov. Scott is the same person I thought he was that day on the Statehouse lawn. I hope he stands with the 74 percent of Vermonters who believe further action is needed to keep our families, friends and neighbors safe.

Gov. Scott: Please show the courage to save lives by signing S.30.

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