Joined by advocates in the fight against domestic violence, key
legislators, law enforcement and others, Gov. Peter Shumlin has
called for legislative changes to help guarantee the secure lock-up
of weapons while relief from abuse orders are in effect.
"This proposal will enable us to enforce existing law and keep
weapons out of the hands of abusers during a time when emotions are
very high," Shumlin said. Turning to the broad spectrum of
supporters attending a news conference at the State House, he
added, "Our first priority is to protect Vermonters from violence.
That has been the shared commitment of everyone who has worked so
hard on this proposal."
Currently, federal law and the terms of state court relief from
abuse orders prohibit domestic violence defendants from possessing
firearms while the order is in effect. Unfortunately, there is a
shortage of facilities for storing the weapons. The Governor
will seek legislation requiring those court-specified weapons to be
turned over to law enforcement when a restraining order is served,
and permitting sheriffs and court-approved federally licensed
firearm dealers to charge defendants a reasonable fee to store
their weapons while the order is in place.
The Governor said many sheriffs would like to store these
firearms now, but lack the space or resources to do so. "The goal
is to give law enforcement and professional dealers the means to
take control of the storage of firearms while protection orders are
in effect, instead of letting abusers hand them over to a friend or
family member, or worse, hold on to them."
"This is a critically important step forward in seeking to take
firearms out of the hands of people who Vermont courts have deemed
to be a danger to their partners and family members," said Karen
Tronsgard-Scott, Executive Director of the Vermont Network Against
Domestic and Sexual Violence. "Given the level of terrible domestic
violence that Vermont has witnessed this summer, it feels even more
pressing to do everything we can to make sure that abusers don't
have access to guns. This is especially true since national
research demonstrates that the presence of a gun in domestic
violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500
Tronsgard-Scott noted that Vermont's Domestic Violence Fatality
Review Commission has recommended legislation in this vein in order
to remedy a dangerous gap in our current response. "We are
grateful to the Governor and his staff and our legislative
leadership for taking this issue so seriously, and for their
commitment to ending the epidemic of domestic violence in our
communities." Tronsgard-Scott noted. "We look forward to working
together to pass this legislation quickly."
Key legislative leaders also voiced support for the
"Supporting the Governor on this issue does not require deep
thinking. There is no rational reason for the perpetrator of
domestic violence to be allowed to possess a firearm while a Relief
from Abuse Order is in place," said Senator John Campbell,
President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate. "With over half of
Vermont's domestic violence homicides committed by firearms, it's
time for people in Vermont to recognize the correlation between
possession and access to weapons in cases of domestic disputes and
"With the safety of domestic abuse victims in mind, this
proposal is a responsible way to manage the storage of firearms so
that abusers do not legally have access to them," said House
Speaker Shap Smith.
"I look forward to working with the Governor and his
administration to pass this important legislation as Vermont
continues to be a leader in preventing domestic violence," said
Sen. Richard Sears, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Gov. Shumlin said the Administration will also seek $75,000 to
create a revolving loan fund to assist with creating storage
facilities. Sheriffs or court-approved federally licensed
dealers that receive a loan would pay the State back over time
through revenue from the fee and sale of firearms in the event fees
are not paid.