Bill would ban guns in government buildings, hospitals

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A state Senate committee is considering a bill that would ban the possession of guns in government buildings, hospitals and child care centers, following the siege of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony Wednesday, the Bennington Banner reported.

“If you were to ask the average Vermonter, they would say those are common-sense ideas,” said Sen. Phil Baruth, a Democrat and Progressive from Burlington, who introduced the bill. “You don’t need and don’t want guns in those areas.”

He said he was inspired to file the bill because of political tensions and inflamed rhetoric over the past several years, including scenes of armed protesters entering statehouses and the U.S. Capitol in “an intimidating and sometimes threatening manner."

The bill would not apply to protests outside government buildings, said Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears, D-Bennington. State and federal law enforcement and military personnel would be exempted, the newspaper reported.

Firearms are banned from schools and courthouses in Vermont.

Defender General Matthew Valerio and Chris Bradley, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, questioned whether existing laws, such as a statue which makes it a crime to possess a dangerous or deadly weapon with the intent to injure, could be applied instead of a new law.

“In my view, it’s not the carrying of the firearm (that is the problem); it’s the intent and desire of the person carrying the firearm that’s the problem,” said Valerio during testimony.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan, and some other state officials testified in support of the bill, noting concerns about employee safety in and around state offices and recent threats. Some pointed to the 2015 murder of Lara Sobel, a Department of Children and Families social worker, by a parent upset by her involvement in a child custody case.