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New Vermont law used to keep school shooting plot suspect from getting gun

RUTLAND, Vt. - A day after Vermont's governor signed a package of gun control measures, one of the new laws was used to keep a school shooting plot suspect from possessing dangerous weapon.

A superior court judge signed an extreme risk protection order Thursday saying Jack Sawyer, 18, poses an extreme risk of physical harm to himself and others. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he changed his stance on gun restrictions after reading the police affidavit in the Sawyer case. He signed bills Wednesday that raise the age to buy firearms, ban high-capacity magazines and make it easier to take guns from people who pose a threat. 

Within 24 hours, the NRA released a video attacking the governor, saying he "gave a one finger salute to the Constitution and to gun owners," reported CBS affiliate WCAX.

Prosecutors say Sawyer, who kept a diary called "Journal of an Active Shooter," made detailed plans for a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School in which his goal was to kill more people than in any other school shooting. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he changed his stance on gun restrictions after reading the affidavit in the Sawyer case.

Now some residents are on edge and a school is boosting security after the state Supreme Court ruled that Sawyer should be granted bail.

The court ruled Wednesday that Sawyer did not act on his plan and prosecutors did not have enough evidence to justify holding him without bail. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted aggravated murder and other charges and is being held without bail. No bail hearing has been scheduled.

"People are frustrated, they are nervous, they're scared," said Fair Haven cafe owner Mark Gutel said. "Because that's a serious crime, it was a serious threat - a credible threat."

Following the court decision, School Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell sent a note to parents saying additional safety measures are being implemented and will be completed by May 1. They include a swipe-card access system, increased police presence and perimeter checks, the Rutland Herald reported.

Former federal prosecutor Jerry O'Neill told WCAX-TV that Vermont does not have a law differentiating an "attempt" versus a "plan."

"There definitely is a loophole, no question," he said. For that reason, Sawyer will likely be released on bail for lack of evidence in the attempted murder charge, he said.

A court hearing is scheduled for April 27. Defender General Matthew Valerio said he hopes the case will be dismissed shortly.

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