Legislative Victories 2023

GunSense Vermont is celebrating one of its most successful legislative sessions in the organization’s ten year history. Thanks to the advocacy of our members, the following bills have passed into law:

Implementation of a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases (H.230):

  • Individuals are required to wait for a period of 72 hours before completing the purchase of a firearm, providing a cooling-off period and allowing time for thorough consideration.
  • The waiting period is intended to promote responsible decision-making and reduce impulsive acts of violence.

Introduction of a crime for negligent firearms storage (H.230):

  • Individuals who fail to securely store firearms and allow unauthorized access may be charged with a crime of negligent firearms storage.
  • This provision emphasizes the importance of responsible gun ownership, ensuring that firearms are stored safely to prevent accidents, unauthorized use, and access by individuals who should not have access to firearms.

Expansion of the state's extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) (H.230):

  • The scope of ERPOs has been expanded to allow various entities, such as family or household members, to petition the court to prohibit individuals from purchasing, possessing, or receiving dangerous weapons.
  • ERPOs aim to identify individuals who pose a significant risk to themselves or others and temporarily restrict their access to firearms, thereby preventing potential acts of violence.

Criminalization of the possession of firearms with removed, obliterated, or altered serial numbers (S.4):

  • It becomes unlawful to possess firearms that have had their importer's or manufacturer's serial numbers intentionally removed, obliterated, or altered.
  • This provision targets illegal firearms trafficking by discouraging the possession of firearms with altered identification, making it easier to trace firearms used in criminal activities.

Prohibition of straw purchasing of firearms (S.4):

  • It becomes illegal to purchase a firearm on behalf of someone who is prohibited by state or federal law from possessing one or intends to use it for criminal purposes.
  • This provision aims to curb the practice of straw purchasing, which enables individuals who are legally barred from owning firearms to obtain them through proxies.

Ban on paramilitary camps (S.3):

  • Owning or operating paramilitary training camps in Vermont becomes a criminal offense.
  • The ban was introduced in response to concerns raised by the community regarding a firearms training facility built without permits, which was deemed a menace by neighbors.

These measures collectively reinforce public safety efforts, promote responsible gun ownership, address specific risks associated with firearms possession, and aim to reduce gun violence in Vermont.

Prior Years

In the spring of 2018, after the interception of a potential school shooting at Fair Haven High School, and with the encouragement of Governor Phil Scott, Vermont legislators bravely and quickly moved forward bills—some of which had been previously stagnant in the judiciary committee for as long as three years:

H.422 – Will allow police to remove guns from people cited for domestic assault (women are five times more likely to be killed in domestic violence situations with a gun present). It's purpose is to prevent future deaths of Vermonters like Anako Lumumba, a South Burlington woman murdered in May 2018, who had reported to police less than a year earlier that her partner was violent and had guns.

S.221 – Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO or red flag law--enables family members and law enforcement to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms.) One day after being signed into law in April 2018, ERPO allowed police to seize guns from the 18-year-old who threatened Fair Haven High School. According to the Brady Center, 42% of mass shooters exhibited warning signs or concerning behaviors prior to their crimes.

S.6 – The most sweeping of Vermont’s new laws, includes: background checks for transfer of firearms, including private sales; a ban on bump stocks; a minimum age of 21 to purchase firearms unless the individual has taken firearm safety course; a handgun magazine limit of 15 rounds and rifle magazine limit of 10 rounds.  Background checks have been proven to be the most effective method of keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

In 2016, the three Democratic candidates running for Governor stated they supported and would sign legislation for Universal Background Checks on all gun purchases if elected, positions that were unheard of just a few short years ago.

In 2015, we were successful in advocating for, and helping to pass, meaningful common-sense gun legislation in Vermont, the first such legislation in decades. The S.141 gun violence prevention bill of 2015 prohibits violent felons and mentally incompetent persons (who have been adjudicated in court as a danger to themselves or others) from possessing weapons.