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Governor Phil Scott Delivers Action Plan for Maintaining the Safest, Healthiest and Strongest Communities and Schools

February 22, 2018

Governor Phil Scott today delivered a memo to the Vermont Legislature, outlining short and long-term actions he’d like to work with the Legislature on to maintain the safest, healthiest and strongest communities and schools.

Following delivery of the memo, available here, the Governor delivered the following statement at his weekly press conference.

GOVERNOR SCOTT: Vermont is currently the healthiest and safest state in America.  We also have some of the best – and safest – schools in the country. Yet, as recent events have made clear, Vermont is not immune to the risk of extreme violence in our schools or communities.

As I said last week, the details of a near tragedy here in Vermont have shaken me. And I – along with many others – are re-examining what we can do, to keep our kids and communities safer.

This morning, I shared a memo with Legislative Leaders outlining an action plan to answer that very question.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that no single solution or combination of actions will eliminate 100% of the risk. But, I remain fully committed to working with the Legislature, and community stakeholders, to reduce the risk of violence in our communities, while preserving our Constitutional rights as Vermonters and Americans.

The action plan I’ve proposed covers what we can do immediately to keep our kids safe, as well as longer-term strategies. It includes both legislative and administrative actions. And, it focuses in three core areas:

  • First, strengthening school security;
  • Second, keeping guns out of the hands of the people who should not have them; and
  • Finally, promoting safe and healthy communities.

I truly believe this conversation cannot just be about guns. And, difficult as it is, we need to set politics aside and be willing to make difficult decisions about what steps will have a real impact, and what actions need more research and discussion. At the end of the day, we must work together if we’re going to build consensus toward meaningful change.

Let me start with strengthening school safety because I think the most immediate – and urgent – action step is to identify and implement any additional prevention or preparedness measures necessary. 

To that end, I’ve directed the Vermont State Police, in coordination with our school security liaison officer, to conduct security assessments of all schools over the next several weeks.  

Additionally, I’ve proposed School Safety Grants – requesting we make $5 million available for security grants that can be quickly deployed.

As well, I’m hoping to engage with you, the media, on a public service project to send the message: “when you see something, say something.” I cannot emphasize enough, that without the courage of a young woman who spoke up about the Fair Haven threat, we could have faced an unthinkable tragedy.

And, I’d encourage the Legislature to consider a shield law to protect the identity of those brave individuals who do speak up.

Next, we can take immediate action on gun safety. Specifically, I’ve asked the Legislature to pass S.221 and send it to me before Town Meeting break and make it effective upon passage. I believe there is a sense of urgency on this legislation that could have an immediate impact on the safety of our communities.

I’ve also asked the Legislature to continue their work to pass:

  • H.422, which would reduce the connection between guns and domestic violence.
  • H. 675, which would clarify a judges’ discretion to require high-risk individuals to turn over all guns and dangerous weapons; and
  • H. 876 to solidify the Federal Ban on Bump Stocks.

Further, I believe it’s time to consider raising the legal age to purchase a gun to 21 with some exceptions, including for those who are a trained member of the military, a law enforcement officer, or have completed an accredited safety course, like the one I had when I was a kid.

And, as they consider expanding reporting requirements and addressing the number and type of sales that require background checks – a conversation I’m open to – I’ve requested they also review whether our reporting to the national background check system is sufficient.

Getting at the root causes of violence is so critical to this conversation, so I will advocate for legislation that promotes safe and healthy communities.

I’ve also asked the legislature to support the newborn home visits program I proposed this year, as well as our proposals to restore the foundation of our mental health system, and to expand on the good work they’ve been doing on Adverse Childhood Experiences.

As I’ve talked about before, my team has been building a strategic plan, which includes metrics that help us track how we’re doing. I feel it’s important to track our progress in this area as well, so we will work to identify how best to show the results of these proposed changes.

Finally, I understand the work of improving community and school safety is never done. With that in mind, I will form a taskforce of experts to determine what more should be done in each of the areas I’ve just outlined. My expectation is for this group to begin its work within the coming weeks, with practical recommendations by December 1 for consideration at the start of the next session.

I want to be clear, these are my recommendations but, I’m open to additional ideas and an ongoing discussion.

In addressing this issue, we have an opportunity to set an example for our children – and for our nation – by having a civil, fact-based and prevention-focused discussion. If we are successful in this regard, I’m confident we can take significant steps forward. 

If we truly want to achieve results that make communities healthier and children safer, we cannot allow the discussion to be derailed by politics, or frankly, be deterred from action by extreme points of view on both sides of this complex issue. 

I look forward to working with the Legislature and all stakeholders on these important issues.