Press Release

Giffords Applauds Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee for Approving Legislation that Seeks to Reduce Firearms Suicide Deaths

This bill establishes a 24-hour waiting period for all handgun purchases requiring background checks

Legislation will be critical to reducing Vermont’s higher-than-average suicide rate

March 15, 2019— Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, applauded the Vermont senate judiciary committee for passing legislation that would establish a 24-hour waiting period on all handgun purchases following a mandatory background check. The bill, sponsored by Senator Philip Baruth, Senator Alison Clarkson, and Senator Ruth Hardy, would help address the crisis of gun suicide facing Vermont and provide comfort to survivors and families of victims.

“No family should ever deal with a loved one taking their own life with a gun. Vermont knows about this problem all too well,” said Nico Bocour, state legislative director at Giffords. “Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young people in the state. When someone is experiencing a crisis, rather than making it easier to access a firearm, we should make it easier to get help. A waiting period gives someone a second chance at life by preventing them from making an irreversible decision. The evidence is clear: waiting periods save lives. We look forward to the work ahead as the Vermont senate continues to consider this bill, and we thank Senators Baruth, Clarkson, Hardy and Senator Sears and the lawmakers on the judiciary committee for their leadership in addressing the suicide epidemic gripping the state.”

A report by Giffords Law Center, Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide, highlights the lethal connection between immediate gun access and suicide. The report finds that over half of all suicides result from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Yet the link between gun access and suicide risk remains dangerously misunderstood, denied, and ignored. While the gun lobby continues to perpetuate the myth that guns play no role in suicide, the reality is the vast majority of people who attempt suicide survive their attempt, recover, and do not go on to die by suicide—unless they use firearms. This is why guns are used in 5% of suicide attempts but cause over 50% of suicide deaths.

“Grateful to Senator Sears and the senate judiciary committee for passing gun safety legislation that will help stop the epidemic of suicide in VT,” said Clai Lasher-Sommers, executive director of Gun Sense Vermont. “The update to the ERPO language and bill to establish a waiting period will save lives. We look forward to continuing to work on this legislation in the House.”

Vermont currently requires no waiting period between the time of purchase and the actual physical transfer of a firearm, and the numbers show that suicide rates are much higher in states with weak gun laws and broad access to firearms. In 2018, the Vermont legislature took steps to decrease suicides by establishing an extreme risk protection order and requiring background checks on most gun sales. By implementing waiting periods, which provide a brief but crucial cooling off period to guard against impulsive, suicidal gun purchases, the legislature can begin to address the tragic and all-too-common realities of gun suicide in Vermont.

Related Resources: