It would be great if the federal government could pass stronger gun laws, but when the Senate was unable to pass the Toomey-Manchin Background Check bill in April 2013, it became clear that we cannot assume meaningful action will happen soon. However, if states like Vermont can pass meaningful gun safety legislation at the state level, that will send a message to the federal government that they need to act, accelerating the process.

Also, even if the federal government does pass legislation, Vermont laws are so lax compared to the other states around us that we will still need our state legislature to fill in some gaps. For example, the federal government cannot mandate that state agencies report information to the national background check system, such whether someone has been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity. Currently in Vermont that communication does not happen, and a mandate to report it can only come from the state legislature. Also, Vermont is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a law prohibited violent felons from possessing weapons. In Vermont, because this law is only on the books at the federal level, local law enforcement cannot enforce it themselves and must refer cased to the federal authorities (and frequently those federal authorities do not have the resources to prosecute these cases unless they are coupled with other crimes.)