When Governor Scott vetoed a bill last spring that would have required a 24-hour waiting period for handgun sales, all I could think about was parents and children. My heart and my head ached. At that time, Governor Scott made it clear that he needed to see evidence proving that a waiting period bill would slow Vermont’s high rate of suicide (35% higher than the national average) and save lives. So, let’s take a look. To consider where we can go, first consider where we are. Nationally, 22,000 Americans die every year from firearm suicide, averaging 61 deaths every single day. Here at home, Vermont’s firearm suicide rate is even higher than the nation’s average; nearly 90 percent of all gun deaths between 2013 to 2018 were the result of firearm suicide. Terrifyingly, Vermont’s overall suicide rate has increased by 73% since 1999 and shows no sign of slowing. Additionally, a new JAMA study found that young people living in poverty have astronomically higher rates of firearm suicide (87% higher than youth in more affluent areas). Firearm suicide is a public health crisis that is tragically and disproportionately impacting us in Vermont.The good news is that, if the Governor is truly waiting for evidence, this evidence abounds. Numerous studies have confirmed that, more often than not, suicide is an impulsive act in a moment of crisis. The vast majority of people who have survived suicide attempts report that less than one hour passed between the time that they considered suicide to the time of attempt. Waiting periods give people in crisis that critical bit of time--time to calm down, time to reach out, time to rethink. With that time, strong emotions and the danger of their associated actions can pass. Just last week, Vermont Senate President Tim Ashe convened a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Senate Health and Welfare Committees to hear from Harvard Business School Professors Michael Luca and Deepak Malhotra--two of the nation’s leading researchers on the efficacy of gun waiting periods in preventing suicides and protecting public health. Their extensive 2017 study shows that waiting periods for handgun purchases can reduce suicide rates by up to 11%. Homicide rates were reduced by an even greater percentage. Waiting periods protect some of the most vulnerable among us by creating a buffer between thought and action. If the Governor is waiting for the public to get behind him, good news on that front as well. There is evidence that the vast majority of Vermonters support waiting periods. The results of a 2019 SurveyUSA poll show that 80% of all Vermonters--Democrats, Republicans, and Independents--support a 24-hour waiting period for gun purchases. 80% of Vermonters get that waiting to buy a gun does not infringe on their right to own a gun. The evidence is clear: We have a problem. And we also have the means to start addressing it. Waiting periods would reduce rates of firearm suicide and save lives. We have all had enough of gun violence. And we have all had enough of the hollow arguments that put guns first and our safety and wellbeing last. Join me this year by advocating for waiting period legislation. Start by calling your state Senators and ask them to pass S.258, which would provide a 48 hour waiting period on most gun sales. Contact the Governor and let him know that the data is in and the evidence is clear: a waiting period bill will save Vermont lives.
The Franklin County Legislative Delegation will be holding a Legislative Breakfast on Monday, February 10, 2020 at St. Albans City Hall. The Breakfast will be from 8 am to 9:30 am. The public is welcome to attend and hear about our latest legislative issues in Montpelier. The Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation will help sponsor this Legislative Breakfast. The next Legislative Breakfast will be in Enosburg on March 16, 2020.
Rep. Eileen “Lynn” Dickinson
St. Albans Town