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Gov. Scott vetoes bill extending background check waiting time for some gun sales, but offers compromise

A white wall with machine guns lined along it.
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Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have extended background check waiting time for some gun sales from three business days to 30 days. He offered to Vermont lawmakers a compromise of extending it to seven business days.

Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation Tuesday that would’ve closed the so-called “Charleston Loophole” in Vermont, banned the possession of firearms in hospitals and given police the authority to seize guns from alleged domestic abusers.

But Scott simultaneously offered lawmakers a “path forward” that could result in most of the provisions in the bill eventually passing into law.

While Scott said Tuesday that he doesn’t think any the provisions in the gun bill are “necessary,” he said his veto stems solely from a concern over proposed waiting periods for gun transfers.

Under existing law, firearms dealers can transfer a gun to a purchaser after three business days, even if the dealer hasn’t yet received the results of a federal background check on the buyer.

Legislation approved by the House and Senate earlier this month, called S.30, would require firearms dealers to wait least 30 days for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to return a result.

Scott said in a veto message to the Legislature Tuesday that Vermonters shouldn’t be denied access to firearms due to backlogs in federal agencies.

“Instead of holding the federal government accountable to complete the background check in a timely manner, it shifts all the burden away from government — where responsibility was intentionally placed in federal law — entirely onto the citizen,” Scott said.

The governor, however, said he’s “willing to work with the Legislature to find a path forward.”

And at a press briefing on Tuesday, Scott said he’s amenable to language that requires gun dealers to wait seven business days, instead of three, before transferring firearms in the absence of a completed background check.

“We need to make sure that we’re not providing an opportunity for people to get guns when they shouldn’t have them, so if there’s any question, they may need a little more time,” Scott said.

As for the remainder of the bill, which would ban the possession of firearms in hospitals and allow police to seize guns from people against whom a judge has filed a protection from abuse order, Scott said he won’t stand in the way.

“The rest of the provisions in the bill I don’t believe are necessary, but they’re not problematic,” Scott said.

More from NPR: In Vermont, A Case Of One Man Whose Gun Was Seized Under Red Flag Law

House Speaker Jill Krowinski said Tuesday that legislative leaders will meet soon to discuss their next move.

At least five House Democrats voted against the gun bill, and the results of the floor vote — 91-53 — suggest House lawmakers don’t have the votes to override the Republican governor’s veto.

“The governor opened the door on the Charleston Loophole, and I think we should take the time to explore that and get a better idea of where he is,” Krowinski said. “Protecting doctors and hospitals from guns is really important, and we’ve seen an uptick in violence across the country and concerns here in Vermont, so we’ll be continuing these conversations with the governor and his administration.”

Seton McIlroy, with the Vermont Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told VPR Tuesday that the seven-day waiting period proposed by Scott would not address the problem her organization is trying to solve.

“To close the Charleston Loophole, you can’t let anybody get a gun without a background check, and seven days would still allow people without background checks to get guns, so that is not closing the Charleston Loophole, and that’s still going to leave people vulnerable,” McIlroy said.

Still, McIlroy said Moms Demand Action isn’t forswearing the prospect of supporting a compromise measure.

She said the bill’s other provisions, including one that would allow health care providers to seek an emergency risk protection order against someone they fear is a risk to themselves or others, could reduce gun violence in Vermont.

“We are an organization that is looking to improve the situation any way we can, so I would not close the door on that [compromise], but it certainly is not our preference,” she said.

This story will be updated.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Peter Hirschfeld @PeteHirschfeld.

Updated: February 22, 2022 at 3:15 PM EST
This story has been updated with additional information about S. 30 and quotes from Seton McIlroy, with the Vermont Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
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