Vermont Uses New Laws to Prevent Suspected School Shooter From Getting a Gun

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Less than one week after Vermont’s Republican governor Phil Scott signed a package of tough new gun control measures into law, the state has already applied the legislation to a teenager accused of plotting a mass shooting at his school.


Claiming that 18-year-old Jack Sawyer presented a clear danger to both himself and others, a superior court judge on Thursday issued what’s known as an extreme risk protection order on Sawyer, preventing him from gaining access to dangerous weapons. Scott reportedly signed the new gun control legislation in part after learning of Sawyer’s arrest.

Sawyer was arrested on February 15, and is accused of planning to shoot up his is former high school in Fair Haven, VT. However, on April 11, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that Sawyer’s alleged actions—which included sending Facebook messages approving the Parkland school shooting, and keeping a diary titled “Journal of an Active Shooter”—were insufficient under state law to hold him without bail ahead of his trial, thanks to a legal debate over Sawyer’s “intent” to commit a crime. Sawyer has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted aggravated murder and attempted first degree murder.

Speaking with WCAK, former federal prosecutor Jerry O’Neill described the question of intent versus formulating a specific plan to commit a crime a “a loophole, no question.”

O’Neill added that it’s possible Sawyer may have the charges against him dropped entirely, and will at least likely be released from jail ahead of his next court date.

It’s that potential release which appears to have prompted the extreme risk protection order, which would block Sawyer’s access to a gun. In addition, officials on the the Fair Haven Union High School board have notified community members that added security measures have been put in place at the school.

Sawyer’s next court date is scheduled for April 27.

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