Vermont lawmakers aim to take guns from domestic violence offenders

Vermont lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow the confiscation of guns from individuals arrested for domestic violence.

Bill H.422, sponsored by the House Judiciary Chairwoman Rep. Maxine Grad, would require police to confiscate all dangerous and deadly weapons from individuals arrested or cited for domestic assault with a weapon.

ABC News reports the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill Wednesday and that the Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence strongly supports the bill.

“All that we have in state statute is the conviction of a violent crime, we don’t have anything related to final relief from abuse order or temporary relief from abuse order with regard to removal of weapons,” said Vermont Network Executive Director Auburn Watersong.

Watersong continued: “The lives of victims of domestic violence literally depend on our state’s ability to keep firearms out of the hands of those who choose to use guns for violence.”

According to the State of Vermont Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission Report, there have been 131 domestic violence related deaths between 1994 and 2015 in Vermont, 59 percent of them involving a gun.

Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, noted there are 13 states with similar laws in place.

“In those states where they have laws that require abusers to surrender their firearms, they have a 9% to 12% lower rate of intimate partner homicides. There is an actual direct effect that we see on the reduction of homicide,” said Brown.

Opponents of the measure note that under current law weapons can be taken from individuals due to a court order after a conviction, and that due process is something they would like to remain intact.

“That’s the easy way of doing it, it’s clearly constitutional what is in place right now whereas there are significant constitutional questions about this particular piece of legislation,” said Kerri Johnson, of the Vermont Defender General’s office.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has also voiced major concerns, calling the proposed legislation a “front for more gun control” and again criticizing the measure for its lack of due process.

The measure is expected to move quickly, as the deadline for bills to pass through their first committee is March 17.