This weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have sparked new calls for action on gun reform, with President Donald Trump saying he would support stronger background checks on gun buyers.
In Vermont, a state that just last year enacted its first significant gun restrictions ever, state leaders Thursday signaled conversations will continue on possible additional reforms.
“Protecting the Second Amendment also means keeping guns out of the hands of people who would do harm,” said Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, a Democrat from South Hero.
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Johnson said she wants to be a part of talks in Montpelier focusing on what she calls reasonable gun reforms, including strengthening the system for background checks.
“I’m willing to continue to have a conversation, because people should not live in fear of getting killed at Walmart, or saying goodbye to their children forever when they get on a school bus,” Johnson said.
The Democrat and her caucus worked with Republican Gov. Phil Scott last year to pass a sweeping package of new state gun policies, in a state that historically had very few.
The purchase age went to 21 in most cases, magazine limits shrunk, a ban went into effect on bump stocks—which speed up certain firearms’ firing rate—and background checks were expanded to cover private sales. Additionally, after due process, police can now take firearms away from people considered a risk to themselves or others.
“I think we’ve done a lot here,” Scott said, adding that other states are considering enacting safeguards similar to those now in place in Vermont, which have also been floated by some politicians in Washington, D.C.
Scott, who faced sharp criticism from some supporters on the political right for advocating for the 2018 gun restrictions, has been reluctant to do even more legislatively. In June, he vetoed a bill that would’ve enacted a new waiting period for handgun purchases.
As necn reported in June, the governor said he did not see sufficient evidence to support arguments that a 24-hour waiting period on handguns would reduce suicide rates—which was the primary reason behind that proposal.
Thursday, Scott voiced support for improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, often known as NICS. Scott said he’d like to see enhancements to that federal system to ensure it gets more data from states to help it work effectively.
Trump has already signaled his backing for tighter checks nationally.
“There’s a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks,” Trump said Thursday. “And I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before.”
Trump said he believes Democrats and Republicans can work together on that issue on Capitol Hill.
“I’m encouraged, in some respects, that we’re having this national dialogue, but it takes more than words—we need some action,” Scott said Wednesday in response to questions from reporters.
Scott said he’s willing to listen to proposals from the Vermont Legislature, and consider any bill that crosses his desk.
Amid opposition from the NRA, top Democrats are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to hold a special session to tackle background checks. So far, there has been no action from McConnell.