Vermont Senator Proposes Bill That Would Ban Cell Phones for People Under 21

Victor Westerkamp
By Victor Westerkamp
January 10, 2020USshare
Vermont Senator Proposes Bill That Would Ban Cell Phones for People Under 21
Young people checking their cellphones. (Robin Worrall/Unsplash)

A bill that would forbid anyone under 21 years old from using or possessing a cell phone in the state of Vermont has been introduced in an apparent bid to make a point about a recently passed gun law.

Democratic state Sen. John Rodgers introduced bill S.212 and told The Barre Montpelier Times he doesn’t think the bill will pass, but wanted to make a point about laws recently passed in the state legislature that raise the smoking age to 21, prohibit those under 21 from buying gun unless they’ve taken a hunter safety course, and require a 24-hour waiting period to buy a gun.

“I have no delusions that it’s going to pass,” Rodgers told the Barre on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t probably vote for it myself,” adding that the state Legislature “seems bent on taking away our Second Amendment rights.”

The two-page bill (pdf) states: “It is clear that persons under 21 years of age are not developmentally mature enough to safely possess them, just as the General Assembly has concluded that persons under 21 years of age are not mature enough to possess firearms, smoke cigarettes, or consume alcohol.”

Violation of the proposed legislation would be punishable by a maximum of a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

In the bill, Rodgers also noted the high rate of fatal car crashes among teenagers and cyberbullying, which some suicides among young people has been attributed to.

“The Internet and social media, accessed primarily through cell phones, are used to radicalize and recruit terrorists, fascists, and other extremists,” he added. “Cell phones have often been used by mass shooters of younger ages for research on previous shootings.”

Michelle Fay, director of Voices for Vermont’s Children, told the newspaper that the bill doesn’t solve the issues noted in it because those under 21 can still access in the internet via computers.

“It feels like a reach, for sure,” she said. “For teenagers, people in their car is a bigger distraction than cellphones,”

“There are so many critical issues impacting the lives of working families in Vermont today, from increasing minimum wage to implementing equitable family and medical leave insurance programs to establishing an office of child advocate,” Fay said in a statement. “We urge the Legislature to focus on the important work at hand instead of getting tied up in hollow diversions.”

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