What is a waiting period law?
A waiting period law requires a certain number of days to elapse between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can actually take possession of that gun.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have waiting periods that apply to the purchase of some or all firearms and vary in length between 3-14 days. Other states require gun purchasers to obtain a license or permit prior to the purchase. Licensing laws of this kind play a similar role to waiting period laws.
How can waiting periods help prevent gun deaths?
By delaying immediate access to firearms, waiting periods create an important “cooling off” period that can help prevent impulsive acts of gun violence, including gun homicides and suicides.
Suicide attempts are often impulsive, singular episodes that involve little planning. Many studies suggest that most suicide survivors contemplated their actions for only a brief period of time—often less than 24 hours—before making a suicide attempt. By one estimation, waiting period laws may reduce firearm suicide rates by 7–11% by simply providing a buffer of time.
Waiting period laws also appear to reduce gun homicide rates. One study found that waiting period laws that delay the purchase of firearms by a few days can reduce gun homicides by roughly 17%.
Why are waiting periods important for Vermont?
Vermont historically has a high rate of suicide. While the national average is 14 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, Vermont's rate is 35% higher, at nearly 19 deaths per 100,000 people. Nearly 60% of Vermonters who kill themselves used a gun.
In suicide attempts, the means matter. Guns are by far the deadliest means of suicide, and the survival rate is only around 15%. As rates of suicide skyrocket, we must look at prevention from all angles, including accessibility to lethal means.
More information and tools for advocacy:
The 2017 study by Deepak Malhotra and Michael Luca (provided testimony to SJC and Senate Health and Wellness Committees, Jan. 2020)
Information on Vermont's high suicide rates
The Means Matter--Harvard School of Public Health