Vermont’s Republican governor signed laws last week increasing gun control restrictions. Just a day after they were signed into law, that new legislation was used to prevent a teen who kept a journal describing plans to conduct a school shooting from obtaining weapons.
The package of legislation passed on Wednesday raised the threshold age for firearm purchases, prohibited high-capacity magazines, and allowed the government to take guns away from people suspected to be a threat to public safety.
On Thursday, a judge signed an extreme risk protection order for Jack Sawyer, 18, who had created a diary titled “Journal of an Active Shooter,” which included plans for conducting the largest school shooting in history. Sawyer has been detained since February, but a hearing is taking place on Tuesday to decided whether he should be released. The judge's measure will stop Sawyer from getting his hands on a gun, if he attempts to purchase them.
In an entry from December, Sawyer wrote about his plans to conduct a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School, referencing the school’s resource officer, Scott Alkinburgh:
“The biggest thing I'm trying to figure out right now is how can I get as far as I can into the shooting before cops bust me first and shoot me dead. I know that I'm going to have to take officer Scott out first, but what's the best way? I'm thinking that I'll go in a few days prior to scope things out and see if he can typically be found in his office. I'm intending to just blow his f****** head off before he can even draw his gun or think about what's happening, but I can only hope with that one. If he kills me first, all of this will be pointless since I won't make the impact and chaos I plan to create. I don't think it'll be too big of an issue figuring out though. Probably just shooting his head point blank is the best way to go."
Governor Phil Scott said he changed his mind on gun control issues after learning more about Sawyer's case and reading the police affidavit on Sawyer.
"I want every student and every school, every mom and dad, every victim of violence in any form to know that today we stand together as we take steps towards making our community safer for all of us," the governor said.
Sawyer is facing charges for attempted first-degree murder, attempted aggravated murder, and attempted assault with a deadly weapon, which can result in a sentence of life without parole.
He has resisted the first two charges since his arrest in February. The teen was detained after sending messages to another student about his plans to conduct a school shooting. The message recipient subsequently showed the messages to police, leading to Sawyer's arrest.
The case has raised complicated legal questions in a state that has typically supported gun freedom, as it has forced lawyers to debate the difference between intent and action.
The National Rifle Association and gun advocates were infuriated by Gov. Scott’s decision to tighten gun control. The decision by a Republican governor to pass gun control legislation seems to indicate that even politicians with prior records of defending gun rights are considering passing minimal policies amid the nation’s resurgent debate on gun control. Although the Parkland shooting and subsequent activism has not produced national legislation, these latest events appear to be shifting legislators’ minds in certain states —even among those who previously supported gun rights.