Gun laws in Vermont

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Location of Vermont in the United States

Gun laws in Vermont regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the U.S. state of Vermont.

Vermont formerly had very few gun control laws, but in 2018, the state enacted laws requiring background checks for private sales, raising the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21 (16 if purchasing a long gun from a person who is not a federally licensed firearm dealer and the purchaser presents a certificate of satisfactory completion of a hunter safety course that is approved by the Vermont Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife),[1][2] banning the sale or possession of handgun magazines that hold more than 15 rounds and rifle magazines that hold more than 10 rounds,[3][a] banning the possession of bump stocks,[5] and allowing police to seek a court order to seize guns from anyone deemed an extreme risk.[6][7] The portion of the law dealing with high capacity magazines has recently been challenged as unconstitutional under Vermont's constitution based upon the right to bear arms (Chapter I, Article 16) and the equal protection clause/"common benefits" clause (Chapter I, Article 7).[8][9]

The open or concealed carry of firearms is generally unregulated. The state's rural character, along with its strong hunting and outdoor sports traditions, have contributed to the state's historically permissive gun policies. Gun dealers are required to keep a record of all handgun sales. State law preempts local governments from regulating the possession, ownership, transfer, carrying, registration or licensing of firearms.[10]

The State neither issues nor requires a permit to carry a weapon on one's person, openly or concealed. This is known in the U.S. as constitutional carry. The phrase "constitutional carry" reflects the view that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not abide restrictions on gun rights, including the right to carry or bear arms. Vermont is the only state where this has always been the case (hence the alternative term Vermont carry[11]). Vermont law does not distinguish between residents and non-residents of the state; both have the same right to carry without prior state approval while in Vermont.

History[edit]

The Vermont Constitution of 1777, dating well before the Bill of Rights to a time when Vermont was an independent republic, guarantees certain freedoms and rights to the citizens: "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State – and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power."[12] The city of Rutland passed an ordinance to prohibit the carrying of weapons without permission from the mayor or chief of police but this was struck down by the Vermont Supreme Court in its 1903 State v. Rosenthal decision.[13][14]

In January 2013, the City of Burlington, Vermont's most populous municipality, approved an ordinance banning assault weapons and certain magazines within its limits.[15] An attempt at gun control at the local level, the ordinance would likely be challenged in court if enforced because Vermont has state preemption of local restrictions.[16] The proposed ordinance was never fully enacted.

Some localities have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.[17]

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant Statutes Notes
State permit required to purchase? No No Must be 21 to purchase any firearm. May purchase long guns at 16 if purchasing from someone other than a federally licensed firearm dealer and the purchaser presents a certificate of completion of a hunter safety course approved by the Vermont Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife.[18]
Firearm registration? No No
Assault weapon law? No No
Magazine restriction? Yes Yes A gun control bill, passed on March 30, 2018, bans sale or possession of magazines of more than 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for pistols.[19] It was signed by Governor Scott on April 11. Previously owned high capacity magazines are grandfathered.
Owner license required? No No
Permit required for concealed carry? N/A No Vermont Firearm Laws May carry open or concealed without permit as long as one is a citizen of the U.S. or a lawfully admitted alien, and not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law.
Permit required for open carry? No No
State preemption of local restrictions? Yes Yes 24 V.S.A. § 2295
NFA weapons restricted? No No Vermont legalized suppressors on June 17, 2015.[20]
Background checks required for private sales? Yes Yes [21]
Red flag law? Yes Yes [21]


Firearm carry[edit]

Vermont is the only jurisdiction in the union where state law does not distinguish between the open or concealed carry of any firearm. The Vermont Statutes restrict where civilians may carry firearms, such as courthouses, schools, and school buses, but not how they may carry them.[22] The only exception to this is in Title 10, which states that a "person shall not carry or possess while in or on a vehicle" a loaded long gun, but makes no mention of "openly" or "concealed."[23]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ High capacity magazines that were lawfully possessed on or before April 11, 2018 may be possessed.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Vermont Laws". legislature.vermont.gov. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  2. ^ "Vermont Laws". legislature.vermont.gov. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  3. ^ "Vermont Laws". legislature.vermont.gov. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  4. ^ "New Vermont Gun Laws FAQs". Department of Public Safety. c. 2018. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  5. ^ "Vermont Laws". legislature.vermont.gov. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  6. ^ McCullum, April (April 10, 2018). "Gov. Scott Signs Vermont Gun Bills: When New Steps Take Effect". Burlington Free Press. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  7. ^ "Vermont Laws". legislature.vermont.gov. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  8. ^ Galloway, Anne (February 12, 2019). "Gun rights lawyers spar with state attorneys over magazine limit". VTDigger.
  9. ^ Therrien, Jim (May 30, 2019). "Max Misch attorney details challenge to Vermont gun law". Bennington Banner.
  10. ^ NRA/ILA Firearms Laws for Vermont
  11. ^ Charles C. W. Cooke, "Vermont: Safe and Happy and Armed to the Teeth", National Review Online, June 24, 2014.
  12. ^ Constitution of the State of Vermont, on the Vermont Legislature web site
  13. ^ "State V. Rosenthal". Guncite.com. May 30, 1903. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  14. ^ "State V. Rosenthal". Constitution.org. May 30, 1903. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  15. ^ "Burlington council approves assault weapons ban". myNBC5.com. January 7, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  16. ^ "24 V.S.A. § 2295. Authority of municipal and county governments to regulate firearms, ammunition, hunting, fishing and trapping". Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  17. ^ "2 towns adopt Second Amendment 'sanctuary' resolutions". idahostatesman. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  18. ^ "Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess". Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
    "Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess in Vermont". Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. November 1, 2019. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
    The age to purchase a long gun from a federally licensed firearm dealer is 18, 21 for hand guns.
  19. ^ Bidgood, Jess (March 30, 2018). "Vermont Legislature Passes Sweeping Gun Restrictions". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  20. ^ "H.5 (Act 61): An act relating to hunting, fishing, and trapping". Archived from the original on June 25, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  21. ^ a b Crow, Jack (April 12, 2018). "Vermont Governor Signs State's First Significant Gun-Control Laws". National Review. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  22. ^ Title 13, Chapter 85, Section 4001-4061, The Vermont Statutes Online, Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  23. ^ Title 10, Chapter 113, Section 4705, The Vermont Statutes Online, Retrieved July 4, 2021.