Editor’s note: Roll Call is published by the Ethan Allen Institute.
S.30, an act relating to prohibiting possession of firearms within hospital buildings, passed in the state Senate on February 3 2022, by a vote of 21-9.
The purpose of the bill makes it a crime to intentionally carry a gun into a hospital.
Individuals who “knowingly possess a firearm” inside a hospital may be imprisoned for up to 1 year and/or fined up to $1000, in addition to any crimes they may commit with a gun inside the hospital, such as “reckless endangerment.” Hospitals will post signs reminding visitors of this threat.
Analysis: Those voting YES believe carrying firearms in “sensitive places” is not a constitutional right, quoting Justice Antonin Scalia in DC vs. Heller (2008). Firearms are already banned in courtrooms and schools, so hospitals are a natural extension of that logic. A doctor at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital testified that “they have had incidents in which hospital staff were forced to argue with armed individuals about their 2nd amendment right to carry in the hospital building… the sight of a gun immediately disrupts the health care team at work.” This bill, they say, would reduce the chances of hospital lockdowns, protecting hospital workers and patients undergoing treatment.
Those voting NO believe the threat to hospitals is insignificant – there is no problem here that needs to be solved — and does not rise to a level of just cause to remove rights, enshrined in the US and Vermont constitutions. They point to “testimony that every hospital has a sign out front that says, ‘No Weapons.’” All Vermont hospitals already have “a right to eject” individuals carrying firearms. The threat of losing $1000 or spending 1 year in prison will not deter “anyone with nefarious intent… (due to) this new crime that we’d be creating.” The concept of banning firearms from a “sensitive place” is dangerously vague, and would set a precedent that could be expanded to include almost anywhere people gather. Moreover, “sensitive places” from which firearms are legally barred tend to become “soft targets” for violent offenders.
As Recorded in the Senate Journal, Thursday, March 18, 2021: “Thereupon, the bill was read the second time by title only pursuant to Rule 43. Thereupon, Senator Benning requested that the question be divided and that Sec. 2 be voted on separately. Thereupon, the bill was amended as recommended in Secs 1 and 3 on a roll call, Yeas 20, Nays 9.” (Read the Journal, p.247-249).
View the floor debate on YouTube.
HOW THEY VOTED
Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) – NO
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – NO
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – YES
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – NO
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – YES
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – NO
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – NO
Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland) –NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – YES
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – NO