Gun law revision among local legislative topics

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BRATTLEBORO >> Rep. Mike Mrowicki says it's time to bring Vermont's gun laws "into the 21st century."

Mrowicki, D-Putney, was among those attending a Wednesday rally in Montpelier demanding that the state require gun sales online and at gun shows to be subject to background checks — the same checks that govern such purchases from a licensed seller.

"Currently, gun sales at shows and online allow convicted violent felons, domestic abusers and recently adjudicated mental-health patients to have access to firearms," Mrowicki said. "With domestic-abuse incidents up 138 percent from the previous two years, it is vital to make sure to limit access to firearms and help women and children in those situations enjoy their right to feel safe."

Advocates with Gun Sense VT are worried about what they call a "dangerous loophole" in Vermont law that does not require gun transactions from unlicensed sellers to be subject to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. At Wednesday's event, they presented a petition bearing more than 12,000 signatures urging that the loophole be closed.

Mrowicki is hoping the Legislature does just that.

"A bill requiring the same background checks for standard gun sales would also require those checks at gun shows and online," he said. "The bill is starting in the Senate, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell. And a companion bill, which I am cosponsoring, will be forthcoming in the House."

There will be opposition to those bills. On Friday, for example, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs reportedly said further gun-control measures are unnecessary and claimed outside influence is behind the push for new gun regulations.

In other legislative business related to Windham County:

— The names of several Windham County residents were presented by the governor's office to serve on state boards and committees. The nominations were submitted Wednesday to the Senate, which referred them to committees for consideration.

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They included James Kiehle of Brattleboro, State Labor Relations Board, to serve until June 30, 2020; Joshua Laughlin of Putney, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, to serve until Jan. 31, 2017; Tammy A. Richards of Newfane, Vermont Economic Development Authority, until June 30, 2018; and Lamont Barnett of Bellows Falls, Vermont Housing Finance Agency, through Jan. 31, 2018.

Also nominated was Timothy O'Connor Jr. of Brattleboro, to serve on the Connecticut River Valley Flood Control Commission until Feb. 28, 2019.

Senate records show that each of the governor's appointments took effect at various points in 2014.

— Brattleboro attorney Joseph Cook, who handles estate planning and administration at the law firm Corum Mabie Cook Prodan Angell & Secrest, testified Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee on the possibility of changing the state law governing transfers of property to minors.

Cook wants Vermont to adopt a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act to replace the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. While the wording is similar, he says the transfers act has been adopted by almost every other state and makes important changes: Among them is a provision that keeps property gifted to minors in a protective custodianship until the recipient turns 21 — three years longer than the current law.

"It is difficult, at best, for prospective donors to know how mature children will be at age 18," Cook wrote in a letter prior to offering his testimony. "Most young adults are far more capable of making sound investment decisions at age 21 than they are at age 18."

Cook said he has been invited back to Montpelier to testify further on Jan. 22. "Things went really well, and I am cautiously optimistic that the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act is going to finally get passed," he said.

— Rep. Mike Hebert reported that, outside of his work with the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee, "the majority of my time has been spent on addressing the local needs of my district" — and that includes a key priority in Guilford.

"I have reviewed the capital budget and I am pleased to see that it includes the restoration of Sweet Pond Dam," said Hebert, R-Vernon. "However, with all the budgetary pressures this year, I will be working diligently to keep the project on track."

Contact Mike Faher at 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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