The parents of Andrew Black say they are “deeply disappointed” by Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of a bill that would have enacted a waiting period on the purchase of handguns.
The bill, S.169, would have required Vermonters buying a handgun here to wait 24 hours until they could receive the weapon. Scott rejected the legislation on Monday evening, saying he doesn’t believe the bill addresses the “underlying causes of violence and suicide.”
“Moving forward, I ask the legislature to work with me to strengthen our mental health system, reduce adverse childhood experiences, combat addiction and provide every Vermonter with hope and economic opportunity,” Scott wrote.
But Rob and Alyssa Black, whose son, Andrew, killed himself last year with a firearm he purchased that same day, disagreed with the governor, saying they were disappointed to see he “went political.”
“We know this bill would not save everyone,” they wrote in a statement provided to the media. But “by disrupting access to the most lethal method, it would have saved some.”
“If this was the law a year ago, it would have saved our son,” they continued. “If enacted, it could have saved yours.”
Legislative leaders of both chambers weighed in on Scott’s veto Tuesday. Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) criticized the governor’s decision, pointing to statistics that show many suicide attempts occur with little planning during a short-term crisis, while 90 percent of firearm suicide attempts result in death.
“Instituiting a short waiting period would allow the heated moment to pass,” she wrote, “and help to prevent the tragedy of suicide.”
And Senate Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) called the veto “massively” disappointing, while questioning Scott’s suggestion that the legislature look to long-term strategies. “These strategies have scarcely registered in the Governor’s proposed budget each year, and in any event will do little to nothing to prevent gun deaths in 2019 or 2020,” Ashe wrote in a statement.
In his veto letter, Scott touted gun safety measures signed into law last year, including mandatory background checks, extreme risk protection orders, the ability for police to remove firearms from those accused of domestic violence and increasing the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21.
The Black family found themselves an unexpected advocate for the waiting period legislation this winter after including a call to lawmakers in their son’s obituary, which asked to impose a “reasonable waiting period” to guard against the “impulsive acts of violence.”
They went on to meet with lawmakers on a handful of occasions during this year’s session and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. In an editorial published this April, Alyssa explained what this process has been like.
“I’ve woken up every morning for 137 days and willed myself to get out of bed,” Alyssa wrote. “I’ve gone to work. I’ve driven repeatedly to the Statehouse to meet with countless legislators and elected officials. I’ve told my son’s story to anyone willing to listen. I’ve gone to my mailbox each day only to find another card or letter from another family, from both near and far. Sending their condolences and telling me about their son or brother or father; how Andrew’s story is just like their loved one’s story.”
In their statement on Monday, the Blacks said they remain committed to what they wrote in Andrew’s obituary.
“We will continue our work until Vermont has a governor that will sign this measure,” they wrote.