Vermont has a long history of responsible gun ownership and it is important to respect that tradition. However, we all recognize that Vermont needs to keep guns out of the hands of people who are judged unfit to own a gun, including felons, persons with domestic abuse orders, persons with significant mental health problems and obviously terrorists. I support the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners but I also recognize that we need to do more to stop irrational gun violence. I support the following important gun violence prevention measures:
1. Close Notorious Loopholes
I support universal background checks for all gun purchases, by eliminating the gun show, mail order, and purchases from private parties loopholes. With universal background checks, we will have a better mechanism to prevent persons known to have backgrounds of serious crimes, abuse and mental health problems from buying guns and using them to kill innocent people. Some estimate that 40 percent of purchases of guns are made without background checks.1 The public overwhelmingly supports universal background checks.2
Studies indicate that states with universal background check laws have substantially less gun trafficking, fewer deaths of women shot by partners, and fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults.3 States with universal background checks and waiting periods for handgun purchases have substantially lower gun suicide rates.4 These are all positive benefits of background checks.
2. Prevent Terrorists from Purchasing Weapons
People on the FBI’s terrorist watch list should not be able to buy guns. The watch list is an FBI database maintained as a bridge between law enforcement, Homeland Security, the Intelligence Community, and international partners. http://bit.ly/2agqv2Z There must be fair procedures for individuals to challenge being listed erroneously.
3. Allow the Federal Government to Study the Impact of Guns on Public Health
The Center for Disease Control should gather data on gun deaths to assist us in understanding how to develop a rational gun policy. Currently, Congress has prohibited the CDC from studying gun violence. http://bit.ly/1CQlel6
4. Establish a Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Gun Violence in Vermont
I support establishing a blue ribbon commission comprised of law enforcement, sportsmen and public health officials to explore all possible ways to reduce gun violence and to keep guns, including assault weapons, from the hands of people who intend to harm themselves or others. Such a commission will help build the consensus needed to advance policies to reduce gun violence.
1 Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice Research in Brief 6-7 (May 1997), at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/165476.pdf
2 Pew Research Center, Continued Bipartisan Support for Expanded Background Checks on Gun Sales, August 13, 2015: “Currently, 85% of Americans – including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) – favor expanded background checks, little changed from May 2013 (81%).” http://pewrsr.ch/1NGsNPt
3 Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Universal Background Checks & the “Private” Sale Loophole Policy Summary, August 2015: “Research has found that states with more expansive background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 38 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and a 31 percent lower overall suicide rate than states without these laws.” http://bit.ly/1loEa8I
4 Anestis et al, The Association Between State Laws Regulating Handgun Ownership and Statewide Suicide Rates, American Journal of Public Health, April 2015; 105(10):e1-e9. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302465 http://bit.ly/21Kg2xN