Outreach 2017 - Guns and Domestic Assault

On March 21st this bill came to the House floor for debate and a roll-call vote. I voted "No". The bill passed 78 to 76. Here's the details:
























The bill was passed to the Senate for their consideration.

Why I voted "No." 
Over the weekend prior to the vote I spoke with several people in Colchester. The "no"s expressed concern that, though an arrest is being made, there has been no determination of guilt. On Monday I had a lengthy discussion with law enforcement. The opinion there was that the bill seemed well intentioned but could result in serious unintended consequences. The storage of gun does take up police resources, and returning guns is not a simple as it seems.

My wife was a strong advocate on the "yes" side and I firmly believe that domestic assault is a serious issue.

I also reviewed that results of the survey I administered through Front Porch Forum and reread the comments people had sent in.

In the end I voted "No', but it was not an easy vote.

H.422 should be coming to the House floor for a second reading vote early in the week of March 20th to 24th. Third reading will be a day or so later. There will probably be roll-call votes.

This is a bill about confiscating firearms when an arrest is being made for Domestic Assault. The bill has changed quite a bit since it was first introduced. If you read the bill, you may want to skip over the 'Findings' (though they are interesting) and get to the meat of the matter in Section 2. Here is the most recent version as of March 18th 2017. The main paragraph is as follows:
"When a law enforcement officer arrests or cites a person for domestic assault, the officer may remove any firearm obtained pursuant to a search warrant or a judicially recognized exception to the warrant requirement if the removal is necessary for the protection of the officer or any other person."
The firearm must be returned in five days.

Questions have been raised as to whether the bill is constitutional. Both the U.S. Constitution and the Vermont Constitution have articles dealing with any restrictions on firearms. The following has been inserted into this bill to cover that:
"This section shall not be construed to permit conduct by a law enforcement officer that violates the U.S. or Vermont Constitution."
Whether that's enough, I don't know. Will there be expensive legal challenges? I don't know.

An arrest does not mean a person is guilty. Though a person convicted of Domestic Abuse may not own a firearm, that should not hold true for a person who has only been arrested for domestic assault. That person may yet be found innocent.

The bill is apposed by:
  • The National Rifle Association - it's unnecessary and unconstitutional.
  • Gun Owners of Vermont

Domestic assault is an under-reported crime. If an arrest is being made and a search warrant has been issued, something pretty serious is going on.

The several days after an arrest are a particularly volatile time period. A person who has been arrested and released on bail may be in a very bad state of mind, The availability of a firearm can make the situation much worse.

The council for the Vermont Police Association provided input for changes to the bill, but the association did not come out with an official position.

The bill is supported by:
  • The Vermont Council on Domestic Violence
  • The Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence
  • GunSenseVT

There are also several paragraphs in the bill to protect law enforcement officials from being held liable for confiscating a firearm under these circumstances.