The Black family of Essex (had) an empty chair at their table this holiday weekend. So (did) 477 other Vermont families who have lost a loved one to suicide since 2011. This public health crisis is ravaging Vermont’s families and communities.
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for young Vermonters ages 15-24. You may be surprised to learn that these tragedies are preventable. Our legislative leaders just need to find the courage to prevent them.
Waiting periods save lives. The facts are irrefutable. Most acts of suicide are impulsive. The waiting period legislation would delay immediate access to firearms, inserting a critical buffer between impulse and action. In states that have courageously passed waiting period legislation, firearm suicides have declined.
The vast majority of people who attempt suicide survive their attempt and go on to live out their lives; unless they use a firearm. Guns are just too lethal. People who attempt suicide with a gun usually do not get a second chance at life.
Waiting periods work. The legislation is good public policy that will help prevent tragedies and curb a public health crisis. Legislators know this. This is, no doubt, why the Senate passed the bill through their chamber. Perhaps though, House members and House leadership, in particular, may have forgotten that gun violence prevention is also good politics.
For as long as anyone can remember, Vermont politicians were terrified of the power of the gun lobby. But the governor’s courageous actions last legislative session to pass common-sense gun safety measures proved gun violence prevention is a bipartisan issue that will be supported at the ballot box. Politicians should no longer fear the gun lobby.
The last session saw Vermont pass the most comprehensive set of gun violence prevention measures in our state’s history. Rather than losing their seats, elected officials who supported this legislation were strongly supported and re-elected on Election Day. The governor won his primary and general elections decisively and legislators on both sides of the aisle were sent back to Montpelier. Today, gun violence prevention is a bipartisan issue. The vast majority of Vermonters support gun violence prevention measures — including waiting periods. Vermonters, like Americans throughout the country, are sick of the senseless violence — the mass shootings, fatal domestic violence incidents and alarming suicide trends. They have had enough. We want to see action.
By passing waiting period legislation, our elected officials have the power to save lives. It is the right thing to do. This legislation will help prevent tragedies and ensure that more families don’t have to face empty chairs at their dining tables in the years to come. And if this isn’t motivation enough — which, let’s be clear, it should be — it is also just good politics.
Elissa Pine is president of GunSense Vermont, a group dedicated to eliminating gun violence in Vermont.