The following letter is from the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs regarding S.30, a bill that would ban firearms in hospitals.
What I am about to relate is one of the most disheartening, if not one of the most outright disgusting things I have ever seen in my eight-year tenure as a lobbyist. Let me explain.
Over the past couple of weeks, the House Judiciary Committee took up S.30, which initially originated in the Senate last year. While it started out as a bill to ban firearms in hospitals, day cares and certain government buildings, testimony revealed that day cares and government buildings were already more than adequately covered, so those places were removed from the bill, leaving a simple bill that would create a new Statute: 13 VSA § 4023 – Possession of Firearms in Hospital Buildings Prohibited.
We fought against that bill in the Senate as there is already an existing law, 13 VSA § 3705 – Unlawful Trespass, which does exactly what they wanted, it has proven that it works and works well, and it is already in use at hospitals for precisely that purpose: No Weapons or Firearms Allowed.
In order for either law to work, police must be present, but with 13 VSA § 3705, police have discretion to either get the problem peacefully resolved; or otherwise, to seize the weapon and arrest the person. With S.30 there is no discretion. You’re guilty. Period.
Does anyone really think any law will stop anyone from doing something evil at a hospital? Why should a mother, bringing her child into an emergency room while forgetting that she has a concealed pistol in her purse due to the urgency of the situation, be guilty of anything?
When House Judiciary picked it up, they immediately set to work to “Christmas tree” it, adding in four other gun-related bills. All five of those sections we were able to give testimony on; but after we gave testimony, and three days before they voted it out; they added another. THAT latest section (section 6, affecting 15 VSA § 1104 – Emergency Relief), is especially egregious. This would be because it steps all over the Constitutional right of “Due Process”.
Under Federal Law, property cannot be taken from an individual unless they have due process, which means they have the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Per Federal Law, a temporary RFA (Emergency Relief – or Relief From Abuse) can be made Ex Parte, meaning that the defendant does not even know that it is coming.
That conglomeration of bills passed out of House Judiciary on a party line vote. It then passed out of the House itself, pretty much also on a party line vote. Because it changed in the House from what had originally left the Senate – it went back to the Senate Judiciary.
Last Friday, Jan. 28, the schedule for this week was posted for Senate Judiciary. It indicated a “walk-through” on S.30, which is the initial process that introduces a bill to the committee. That was all that was scheduled; no testimony whatsoever for the entire week.
So, we listened in on Zoom as the walk-through occurred. That walk-through started however with discussion that there was pressure being placed on the committee chair by Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint to pass the bill immediately. The schedule was then changed for Thursday, Feb. 3, to allow for four people to testify: Judge Zonay; a person from the Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, a lackey from Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Federation. No other gun groups were allowed to testify.
The discussion Thursday was started by the chair informing the committee and everyone else that the bill was going to be voted out of the committee within 1 1/2 hours, and it had already been scheduled by Balint for a vote in the Senate floor. The Senate Committee on Judiciary essentially rubber-stamped five sections that they had never seen before the previous day, without being given the time to discuss the bills in a deliberative manner. It was a done deal, a true democratic process be damned.
The debate in Senate Judiciary centered around two sections added in the House: Sections 2 and 6. Section 2 of S.30 creates a potential 30 day NICS waiting period for citizens purchasing from a Vermont FFL who experience a default delay. Under the federal NICS law the FFL may complete the transfer after three business days, This 30 day wait could place a citizen in an endless cycle because the NICS process requires the NICS background to be restarted after 30 days.
Section 6 was the point of the most serious debate over the ability to confiscate firearms at a hearing for which the gun owner was not even aware and not able to present or have representation (Ex Parte). This process lacks due process of law, which is required by Federal Law under the United States Code. This section of S.30 was not germane to the rest of the bill as it amended 15 VSA, Vermont’s Domestic Relations law, while the original S.30 and the vast majority of the rest of the bill amended sections of 13 VSA, Vermont’s Criminal Law.
The bill will now go back to the House, where there is no question, they will vote to concur. It then goes to the governor’s desk – where he has tentatively signaled that he may veto it – and at present there does not appear to be enough votes in the House to override that veto.
We will keep you posted – but despite this affront to the creation of sound public policy that is in compliance with Vermont and Federal Law – we will continue to fight the good fight.
Please forward to your like-minded friends.
Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs