‘If it's One Life That it Saves—That's Enough:' Vt. Parents Push for New Gun Law Following Son's Death

Following the death by suicide of Andrew Black, 23, his parents want a waiting period on gun purchases

A Vermont family asked a committee of lawmakers Thursday for a new waiting period on gun purchases in the state, hoping such a move could prevent some suicides.

“He was incredibly bright,” Alyssa Black of Essex said of her son, Andrew.

Andrew’s parents remember the 23-year-old as funny and active but said in testimony before the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee that he fell into a dark place after a big life disappointment late last year.

“He just needed a little bit more time,” Andrew’s mom said, telling lawmakers she believes that in another day or so, her son would have emerged from that deep funk.

Rob Black, Andrew’s dad, testified that it took his son less than 30 minutes to complete a legal handgun purchase, and he died hours later by suicide.

The Blacks asked the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee to advance a bill that would create a 48-hour delay between when someone buys a gun and when that customer can take it home.

“It would be a nice little speed bump for somebody that was buying it for the wrong reasons,” Rob Black told the committee members.

Andrew’s parents received national attention in December when they used his obituary to urge Vermonters to lobby lawmakers for what they termed a “cooling off period,” hoping in that time, any impulses toward self-harm may fade.

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 10 states—California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington—as well as Washington, D.C., have passed laws creating waiting periods that apply to the purchase of some or all firearms.

“And it may have unintended consequences,” cautioned Bill Moore, a firearms policy analyst with the Vermont Traditions Coalition, in testimony to the committee.

The Vermont Traditions Coalition and the group Gun Owners of Vermont don’t want to see their state press pause on anyone seeking personal protection, they testified Thursday.

“If a woman is being stalked by an abusive husband or any stalker, a waiting period could be the difference between life and death,” Ed Cutler, the president of Gun Owners of Vermont, said to the members of the judiciary committee.

Cutler also offered his condolences to the family of Andrew Black before he began his testimony before the committee.

The Blacks insisted they are not anti-gun, saying they support Second Amendment rights as owners of firearms themselves.

However, the couple told necn and NBC 10 Boston that they consider the move “common sense,” calling a waiting period just one way to mitigate risk and save lives.

“It doesn’t solve the problem of all suicides with firearms,” Alyssa Black acknowledged. “But it will save some.”

“If it’s one life that it saves, that’s enough,” Rob Black added.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said in response to a reporter’s question on February 14 that he doesn’t believe changes to Vermont’s gun laws are needed right now, adding that he isn’t convinced a waiting period is the key to suicide prevention.

“I’m just not sure that’s the answer to the problem,” Scott said during an unrelated press conference two weeks ago. “We have to go to the underlying root of the problem.”

Scott noted he has a suicide prevention task force currently analyzing the public health concern in Vermont, with an eye toward shaping future state policy.

Still, Scott said two weeks ago that he was willing to listen and learn more about waiting periods as he considers the issue.

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 'Home' to 741741.

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