Right now, gun sales are treated differently depending on where a gun is purchased. A person who buys a gun through a gun shop needs to pass a background check, but someone who buys a gun through an unlicensed seller, such as a private seller online, an auction, or a flea market, doesn’t. This loophole gives criminals an easy way to get a gun, and it makes it harder for law enforcement to enforce gun trafficking laws.


The loophole makes it too easy for a criminal to buy a gun.

  • The day after the Orlando shooting, Seven Days reporter Paul Heinz wanted to see if he could buy a gun without a background check.
  • Later that day, he had gun in hand and no background check had been required.[1]


Criminals are aware of the loophole.

  • A domestic abuser with a history of making threats against the community, called his son from jail to ask him to buy a gun from an unlicensed seller, according to the police affidavit.[2]
  • In a 3-month period in Vermont, the following individuals began the process of buying a gun online without a background check:
    • A 55-year-old Huntington man, whose court records show he brutally attacked his wife and repeatedly threatened to kill her by choking
    • A twice-convicted cocaine dealer in Bennington with a history of exchanging guns for drugs
    • A 32-year-old domestic abuser in St. Albans, who also was a fugitive from justice in Nebraska. The man had been in trouble with the law more than a dozen times.[3]

Domestic violence survivors shouldn’t have to face a loophole in the laws protecting them.


  • Vermonter Pamela Simmons was threatened with a gun by her ex-boyfriend. She worries that he could easily get another gun from an unlicensed seller.
  • Another Vermonter decided against filing for a protective order because of the fear that it would anger her abuser while doing nothing to keep him from easily buying a gun.



Closing the Background Check Loophole Save Lives

Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people means safer communities and fewer gun-related deaths. in the 18 states that require criminal background checks on unlicensed gun sales:

  • 38% fewer women are killed by guns (while the non-firearm homicide rate is nearly identical).[4]
  • Gun trafficking is 48% lower.[5]


Gun trafficking which is tied to our state's drug crisis and domestic violence are two issues that threaten every single Vermont community, from our cities to our smallest towns. This simple fix to close the loophole in the federal background check law will save lives and protect communities. 


The federal government prohibits violent offenders from possessing guns, but to enforce that Universal Background Checks are needed. “Fingers crossed” is not a common sense state policy. 


84% of Vermonters support Universal Background Checks,[6] as well as groups such as: GunSenseVT, the Vermont Network Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, the National Association of Social Workers – Vermont Chapter, Voices for Vermont’s Children, Kidsafe Collaborative, the Peace and Justice Center, Amnesty International’s Northeast Chapter, the Islamic Society of Vermont, the Vermont Association for Public Health, the Vermont Medical Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, and the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians.

[1] Heinz, Paul. “The Gun: How I Bought an AR-15 in a Five Guys Parking Lot.” Seven Days. 15 June 2016. http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/the-gun-how-i-bought-an-ar-15-in-a-five-guys-parking-lot/

[2] Affidavit, Sergeant Mark Carignan, Brattleboro Police Department, July 1, 2014; Timothy O’Keefe, phone call with Alex O’Keefe, May 23rd 2013.

[3] Donoghue, Mike. “VT Sting: Prohibited Persons Buying Guns Online.” Burlington Free Press. 20 January 2015. http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2015/01/20/vt-sting-prohibited-persons-buying-guns-online/22076061/

[4] Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2011, available at http://bit.ly/V1GvFe. Excludes New York due to incomplete data; Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Supplementary Homicide Report. 2010.

[5] Daniel Webster, Jon Vernick, & Maria Bulzacchelli, “Effects of State-Level Firearm Seller Accountability Policies on Firearm Trafficking,” Journal of Urban Health, July 2009. To gauge gun trafficking, the authors measured the ratio of likely trafficked guns recovered from crime scenes to the total of guns recovered. A “likely trafficked gun” was defined as having been recovered at a crime scene and not in the possession of its original purchaser within one year of its last legal sale.

[6] VPR/Castleton Poll February 2016 & October 2016.