As the Vermont legislature convenes to open their 2023 legislative session today, lawmakers will once again have the opportunity to pass common sense gun safety measures. In 2022, legislators passed a bill that was signed into law by Vermont Governor Phil Scott to improve standards for background checks by addressing the “Charleston Loophole”, protect victims of domestic violence, prohibit guns in hospitals, and study the effect of Vermont’s Extreme Risk law on suicide rates.
This year, Vermont lawmakers should build upon that success by passing policies to help prevent gun suicide, including requiring secure firearm storage, allowing family and household members to file petitions directly under the extreme risk law, and requiring a waiting period before completion of a firearm transfer. To address rising rates of gun violence in Vermont cities, lawmakers should also repeal state law prohibiting cities and towns from passing their own gun safety laws. Finally, to prevent armed extremism from taking hold, lawmakers should prohibit the open carry of firearms in public places.
What to know about gun suicide in Vermont
- Studies show that access to firearms triples a person’s risk of suicide. Gun suicide is also vastly more lethal form of self-harm than other methods.
- More than 90% of gun deaths in Vermont during 2020 were suicides.
- Last year, there were 142 suicide deaths among Vermont residents – the largest number and highest rate of suicide deaths ever recorded in Vermont.
- Vermonters consistently died by firearm suicide at a rate higher than the national average from 2011-2020.
Vermont’s Extreme Risk law allows prosecutors to seek an order from a court to temporarily prohibit a person who poses a risk of causing harm to themselves or others from having firearms. Increasing awareness of Vermont’s lifesaving law and passing legislation to allow family and household members to petition a court directly is critical to ensuring this law saves lives.
Lawmakers should also work to prevent children from accessing firearms by passing a comprehensive secure storage bill – nationally, guns are the leading cause of death amongst children and teens. Over the past few years there were several close calls where students and parents have threatened gun violence against our schools. Nationally, the last school year was the deadliest on record. Keeping our kids and educators safe in school means stopping gun violence before it happens in the first place — secure storage laws are a crucial part of the solution. Households that locked both firearms and ammunition were associated with 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries and 85 percent lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens, compared to those that locked neither. Vermont is now the only state in New England without some type of law requiring secure firearm storage.
Vermont Moms Demand Action volunteers look forward to being a partner and advocate for the legislature to pass comprehensive gun safety measures.
More information on gun violence in Vermont can be found here. If you have any questions, or would like to request an interview with a volunteer from Vermont Moms Demand Action or Students Demand Action, please don’t hesitate to reach out.