Extreme risk protection orders gaining traction in Vermont

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

COME AND TAKE IT : The state is taking away guns from those who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. Gun rights activists feel this could be a slippery slope towards abuse of power.

Extreme risk protection orders are popping up frequently after lawmakers passed a slew of gun laws this year, but some gun rights advocates in Vermont say the orders could be abused.

A new gun law passed quietly under the radar this year, taking a back seat to the headline-grabbing S.55, which introduced controversial universal background checks, magazine limits and more.

Under Vermont’s new extreme protection order (EPO) law, people who exhibit behaviors considered to be violently risky for themselves or others can have their firearms taken away by a judge’s order.

The first such case was Jack Sawyer, the former Fair Haven Union High School student who threatened his peers earlier this year. The Sawyer incident occurred shortly after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting where 17 people died.

A more recent request for an extreme risk protection order involved a Harwood Union High School custodian, Dick Peck. He is accused of writing a threatening message on a bathroom mirror. According to reports, Peck had access to multiple firearms and, therefore, prosecutors argued that an order was necessary to protect those around him.

Once an order is granted, the person must hand over all firearms to police, a firearms dealer or someone approved by the court. He or she must wait until the order is lifted before getting the guns back, which can be up to six months, and then there can be a renewal for up to another six months.

According to the Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, extreme risk protection orders have been requested 18 times, and almost all of them were granted.

Bill Moore, a firearms policy analyst for the Vermont Traditions Coalition, said gun rights lobbyists were aware of the bill as it made its way toward passage. In other states, such laws are sometimes called “red flag” laws.

“I’m not surprised,” Moore said of the 18 requests for EPOs made in such a short time. He said it allows a judge to mitigate “a situation where the threats are more verbal than action.” It also provides a period of relief until the court date where the threat can be reassessed.

Moore noted that based on statistics from states where EPOs have been around for a few years, roughly 60 percent of them are issued regarding a suicide threat, meaning it’s more about mental health than threats to others.

Moore said he and other gun-rights activists worked closely with state Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, on the bill.

“He’s been a straight shooter with us,” Moore said.

He added that House lawmakers eventually muddied up the bill and gun rights supporters were largely indifferent to its passage, not necessarily for or against it.

Eddie Cutler, president of Gun Owners of Vermont, is not happy about the application of the law so far this year. He called it “a travesty of justice” that Peck had his weapons taken away.

“This supposed dangerous person didn’t do anything except write something on a mirror in the school,” he said. “It had nothing to do really with him being violent or anything else. And being a school employee, he’s been through background checks. He’s been through all kinds of other checks.”

The state of New York is taking the next step on determining extreme risk, There is in the general assembly consideration of a law that would require a social media background check to purchase a gun. Cutler said with the new supermajority in Vermont’s legislature, bills like the one in New York could soon come to Vermont.

“Gun Sense is gonna jump on the bandwagon if they haven’t already,” he said. “Realistically they keep saying we only want this [the 2018 gun laws], then they want something else. They have a billionaire [former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg] backing every dime they spend.

“I haven’t seen the bills for this year,” he said. “I’m terrified of what the legislators are gonna do.”

He said that Gun Owners of Vermont is suing Vermont regarding the universal background checks, the 21-year age limit to purchase, and the ban on bump stocks. The Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is suing the state regarding a limit on magazine capacity.

On the new age limit, Cutler said the law puts 18- to 21-year-olds at a loss if they encounter wildlife such as bear or other dangerous animal.

“There is a very large chance in Vermont of being attacked by an animal,” he said.

Cutler also said the gun laws passed this year do not make schools any safer, and the only thing that would is having armed personnel inside the schools.

“We have firearms trainers, people who want to volunteer,” he said. “They are already teaching airline pilots self-defense. We would love to see something like that here.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection

16 thoughts on “Extreme risk protection orders gaining traction in Vermont

  1. In the middlebury case, it has been reported that the Uncle aparently in a different home, from whom the aleged weapon would be taken and used……….

    …….. Had to unlock his GUN SAFE – in order to give up his entire gun inventory – for however long – for an event that could not have happenned.

    The alleged guns for crime – were locked in a secure gun safe. Laws can be useful, ignorant, foolish, ridiculous.
    This application of this Extreme Protective Order – was and is ABSURD, and Unconstitutional.

    • There should never be burdens or consequences inflicted by the law upon the victim of a crime, only on the perpetrator. Only the perpetrator has control over their actions, not the victim and only the perpetrator has responsibility for his actions.

      In this case the victim of a robbery conspiracy was then victimized again by the police when they actually did steal his guns.
      Even with the due process and 2nd amendment issues aside, what these cops and this judge have done demonstrates a massive failure of logic and reason.
      Firstly, they penalize the victim rather than the perpetrator. Second, since this persons guns aren’t the only lethal means in the world they have essentially done nothing at all to prevent the conspirators from committing murder. Unless these cops and this judge are just blatant anti civil rights types who think all guns are bad.

      • Convenient omission and to further the agenda of civilian disarmament,which little head is payed to truth and facts.

        Never mind a 2 nd. amendment violation the 4 th. and 5 th. violations are more disturbing and appear were but a after thought,if at all to law enforcement.

        Durring testimony all of these possible violations were presented to the legislature and were ignored in the rush to security theater,Constitution be damned.

  2. Vermont Teens Planned a School Shooting So Police Confiscated a Relative’s Guns

    According to Addison County (Vermont) Independent News Service, two 14-year-old Middlebury Union Middle School students planned to take part in a school shooting earlier this week. Apparently, another student who overheard the two suspects discussing their plans told their parents and the parents relayed the information to the Middlebury Police Department.

    As a law enforcement officer, I’m all for identification and investigation of potential threats. My own area had a similar situation occur. Except in the case here, the investigating agency only confiscated the guns of the actual suspect.

    The issue with this case in Vermont is the language of the law and how the was situation was handled. The Vermont statute is plain as day.

    (a) A State’s Attorney or the Office of the Attorney General may file a petition requesting that the court issue an extreme risk protection order prohibiting a person from purchasing, possessing, or receiving a dangerous weapon or having a dangerous weapon within the person’s custody or control. The petitioner shall submit an affidavit in support of the petition.
    (b) Except as provided in section 4054 of this title, the court shall grant relief only after notice to the respondent and a hearing. The petitioner shall have the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence.
    (c)(1) A petition filed pursuant to this section shall allege that the respondent poses an extreme risk of causing harm to himself or herself or another person by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a dangerous weapon or by having a dangerous weapon within the respondent’s custody or control.
    (2)(A) An extreme risk of harm to others may be shown by establishing that:
    (i) the respondent has inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily harm on another; or
    (ii) by his or her threats or actions the respondent has placed others in reasonable fear of physical harm to themselves; or
    (iii) by his or her actions or inactions the respondent has presented a danger to persons in his or her care.
    (B) An extreme risk of harm to himself or herself may be shown by establishing that the respondent has threatened or attempted suicide or serious bodily harm.
    (3) The affidavit in support of the petition shall state:
    (A) the specific facts supporting the allegations in the petition;
    (B) any dangerous weapons the petitioner believes to be in the respondent’s possession, custody, or control; and
    (C) whether the petitioner knows of an existing order with respect to the respondent under 15 V.S.A. chapter 21 (abuse prevention orders) or 12 V.S.A. chapter 178 (orders against stalking or sexual assault).
    (d) The court shall hold a hearing within 14 days after a petition is filed under this section. Notice of the hearing shall be served pursuant to section 4056 of this title concurrently with the petition and any ex parte order issued under section 4054 of this title.
    (e)(1) The court shall grant the petition and issue an extreme risk protection order if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent poses an extreme risk of causing harm to himself or herself or another person by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a dangerous weapon or by having a dangerous weapon within the respondent’s custody or control.

    The news story mentions that one of the suspects was going to obtain the firearms they intended to use in the shooting from a relative. That relative is an innocent third party. But law enforcement obtained an extreme risk protection order against the relative and confiscated that person’s guns.


    Jan 1, 2018 – Dec 13, 2018 (10:43:31 AM) Current Clock countdown 34 ITEMS
    Murder by Gun is #23 (10,909), Drugs, Hospital, Medical Errors, Prescription Over dose, (370,613)
    Abortion (1,036,503) As can be seen Politicians say Guns are the issue. The published data:

    Abortion: 1,06,503
    Heart Disease: 583,121
    Cancer: 561,624
    Tobacco: 332,210
    Obesity: 291,395
    Medical Errors: 238,673
    Stroke: 126,338
    Lower Respiratory Disease: 135,677
    Accident (unintentional): 129,138
    Hospital Associated Infection: 93,968
    Alcohol: 94,917
    Diabetes: 72,600
    Alzheimer’s Disease: 88, 786
    Influenza/Pneumonia: 52, 420
    Kidney Failure: 340,588
    Blood Infection: 31,763
    Suicide: 40,599
    Drunk Driving: 32,090
    Unintentional Poisoning: 30,144
    All Drug Abuse: 23,734
    Homicide: 15,945
    Prescription Drug Overdose: 14,238
    Murder by Gun: 10,909
    Texting while Driving: 5,685
    Pedestrian: 4,746
    Drowning: 3,716
    Fire Related: 3,322
    Malnutrition: 2,631
    Domestic Violence: 1,386
    Smoking in Bed: 740
    Falling out of Bed: 568
    Killed by Falling Tree: 132
    Lawnmower: 65
    Spontaneous Combustion: 0

    Your chance of death is 100%, are you ready?

    According to Vox, there are more guns than people in the United States, an overwhelming statistic for those hoping to curb gun violence with new regulations. So exactly how many guns are there in America at the present moment? It’s difficult to calculate, but in 2015, The Washington Post estimated the number of firearms nationwide at 357 million. That’s already a staggering figure, but it becomes even more so when compared with the country’s population, which at that time was 317 million.
    The data they were pulling comes from a 2015 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that uses data from 1986 to 2013.

    One thing that no estimate can account for is the unregistered firearms that constantly cross our borders, in both directions. Ironically, gun sales boomed during the Obama era, as the gun debate was pushed to the forefront.

  4. I really don’t like that there’s no liability for damage to the firearms done while being confiscated. They can get nicked, scratched, or allowed to rust, and a valuable collection can be made virtually worthless.

  5. Thank you Michael Bielawski for an accurate article
    Things like the incident in Middlebury and the Harwood Union High School custodian are the reason we at the Gun Owners of Vermont stood against this law. These 2 people and others have lost their rights under a number of constitutional protections. The legislature should do 3 things to protect people in this state
    1) Arm and train school personal This is what the commission in Florida has recommended. It would not cost the state or towns any money We will train anyone who want to protect those kids for free.
    2) If a person is truly dangerous hold them so they cannot harm others. This does not mean someone who writes something on a bathroom mirror.
    3) Stop listening to billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his Astro Turf anti self defense organization.
    Because of them there has been more unconstitutional orders issued this year than firearms murders committed for a 1 year in the entire history of Vermont.

  6. The written word can be probable cause for an EPO action and that written word is subject to interpretation by everyone who reads it. It only takes one person who might be offended by that written word to get the ball rolling. So, think what you want but watch what you say because the “TEXT COPS” are watching.

  7. Listen carefully to Sen. Baruth. He said last years gun legislation was “a good start”. I doubt he will be happy until at the least we have to. Provide a list. Including serial numbers of all our firearms. The rumor around the capital is that a proper storage bill with criminal implications. Is in the drafting process now. Keep your eyes open.

  8. With any luck, on a brighter note, this law will be challenged before both the state & federal courts before too much time goes by — especially if a pattern of frequent use and therefore abuse of it exists.

  9. The recent Middlebury case shows you the slippery slope that we’ve gone down with this legislation. When third parties can be brought into this thing and have their property confiscated without due process this shows you where they’re going with this kind of legislation it’s definitely Agenda 21 and agenda 30 right out of the globalist Playbook

    • What happened in that case should be grounds for jailing everybody involved. The law isn’t written to support what the police and courts did. I’m confident damage control is ongoing and we’ll soon read/hear about mistakes in the reporting – otherwise everybody involved violated their oaths of office.

  10. Extreme Risk Protection or just Crying Wolf, because you have a grudge against someone !!
    Now that sounds more realistic under this new law ??

    Under Vermont’s new extreme protection order (EPO) law, people who exhibit behaviors
    considered to be ” Violently Risky ” for themselves or others can have their firearms taken
    away by a judge’s order, what about any other item that could be used as a weapon NO
    mention of that ??

    Oh yeah, that’s not part of the agenda ( Banning Firearms ) ……..A neighbor was beaten by
    her husband with a baseball bat ” Violent ” to say the least !!

    We all know that a restraining order isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, it just irritates the one
    it’s written against …………..

    Crooks & Crazies Incarceration, now that works !!

  11. As it as written and used,lacks Due Process,thus should be found UnConstitutional and overturned. If civilian disarmament proponents don’t care for it,they are free to leave the state and Nation for a Marxist utopia of their choice.

Comments are closed.