By EMERSON LYNN
Disappointed. Not shocked. But deeply disappointed. That’s the only way for most Vermonters to respond to Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of S. 169, the bill that would have required people to wait a full day before buying a handgun.
The governor defended his decision by reminding Vermonters that last year he had signed into law “a package of historic gun safety reforms because I believe they make schools, communities, families and individuals safer, while upholding Vermonters’ constitutional rights.”
He said the next step in the process was to address the underlying causes of violence and suicide, and that the 24-hour waiting period did not meet that need.
What is needed, he said, is for us to pay more attention to “our mental health system, to reduce adverse childhood experiences, combat addiction and provide every Vermonter with hope and economic opportunity.”
Well, no kidding.
Let’s toss in a little help with college tuition while we’re at it.
But it makes no sense for Mr. Scott to tie a need in the moment to needs that will take a generation to address.
The power behind the 24-hour waiting period is that it saves lives immediately, and at absolutely no cost. The evidence is clear that people often buy guns and commit suicide [or murder] before they have had time to think. The 24-hour waiting period helps reduce the impulsiveness involved. It’s just that simple.
And waiting a day before being able to pick up your handgun? That’s a burden? Pick out the gun at noon one day, and pick it up at noon the next, and the world ceases to exist as we know it?
The reason the governor vetoed the bill is because he was pummeled politically by the far right last year when he signed into law the “historic” gun control measures. The calculation is that he gained as much as he could from that bruising battle, and that vetoing the 24-hour waiting period bill would restore his support on the right,
But that’s not how the political dynamic may play out in the 2020 election [although it may be a pretty strong indicator that he at least will run for another term.]
The 2020 campaign will be one that tilts left. Mr. Scott’s challenge will be to keep the moderates [and perhaps some blue dog Democrats] in his camp. If, for example, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman decides to challenge Mr. Scott it does the governor little good to have the hard right firmly in his camp. They will support him regardless. They have no place else to go, and the alternative is far worse.
It’s a given the Democrats/Progressives will be out in force in 2020, particularly with Sen. Bernard Sanders running for president. This leaves little room for Mr. Scott to maneuver. There are far more registered Democrats in Vermont than they are Republicans. He needs every political moderate he can get.
He recognizes this, in part, which is why he paired the veto announcement with his support of H.57 the legislation that prevents the government from interfering in a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
The calculation is that the support he gets for supporting a woman’s reproductive rights more than makes up for his failure to stand up to the NRA and his failure to support the 24-hour waiting period.
Maybe. Maybe not. Women vote in higher numbers than men and women favor gun control legislation in higher numbers than men – this is particularly true with political independents.
Political calculations aside, our lament with Mr. Scott’s decision is that he had the chance to save some lives, and he elected not to.
That’s never okay.