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Vermont Gun Freedoms Shot Down—From Within

Vermont Gun Freedoms Shot Down—From Within

Photo credit: Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

From the beginning, the state of Vermont has been running an experiment in Second Amendment-style freedom, as Vermont is the original “constitutional carry” state. If someone can legally carry a handgun, then they don’t need a permit to do so in Vermont. At the same time, and by almost every measure, Vermont has long been one of the safest states in the nation. This drove the anti-gun Left crazy, as Vermont was proof in New England, of all places, that freedom works.

For this reason, although the state has given us government-empowering, if not outright socialist, politicians like Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders, Vermont nevertheless stayed pro-gun freedom. In fact, guns were one of the few issues on which Hillary Clinton was able to successfully get to the left of Sanders.

But now Vermont has—in one big, unpopular gun control package—passed a Michael Bloomberg wish list of bans and restrictions on its citizenry. And a governor with a pro-gun history, and who had made pro-gun promises to get elected, signed the legislation.

The gun control package includes a ban on the possession and sale of bump stocks, long-gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and handgun magazines that hold more than 15 rounds, unless purchased before Oct. 1, 2018. Lawmakers passed this even though the state’s assistant attorney general, David Scherr, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “The attorney general has some serious concerns about the practical enforceability of this measure.”

The law mandates that background checks be conducted on most private gun sales—it makes an exception for immediate family members. It also bans all gun sales to adults who are 18 to 20 years old, although the law makes an exception for residents who complete a Vermont hunter safety course and those who are in the military or employed by a law enforcement agency.

Moreover, this gun control package allows police to confiscate a gun (or guns) from a person who is deemed to pose a threat. A judge would decide if the person could get his or her gun(s) back. The law also allows the state to seek an “extreme protection order” that “prohibits a person from possessing a firearm for up to one year.”

Anyone who violates these laws could get between six months and a year of jail time and/or fines between $500 and $1,000.

Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott had a desk brought out onto the front steps of the statehouse in Montpelier so he could sign the most restrictive gun control measures in the state’s history in front of a crowd. Gun-rights proponents showed up with signs and heckled the governor, who had promised in the past that he wouldn’t sign gun control legislation. Some in the crowd yelled “Traitor!” Others held signs saying, “One Term Gov” and “Not My Governor.”

Scott said he decided to sign the legislation after police stopped a possible murderer before he acted on plans to kill as many students as possible at a Vermont high school. The police made this arrest two days after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Police had acted after someone alerted them to a threatening Facebook message from a student who, according to Vermont Supreme Court documents, said he wanted to “exceed the body count from the Virginia Tech shooting.”

Current state law at the time enabled the authorities to catch and prosecute this person before he might have acted. The system worked as it should have worked in Florida, where government at several levels failed to protect the innocent. Why, then, did Vermont need new bans and other restrictions on those who will follow the law? Obviously, this wasn’t about making Vermont safer, but about controlling law-abiding people in Vermont who choose to utilize their Second Amendment rights.

Bloomberg couldn’t get these restrictions passed after he funded a failed “sting operation” in late 2014 in which his group, Everytown for Gun Safety, placed fake gun ads from fictitious private sellers on various websites. Now, Vermont’s gun owners have had these restrictions piled on them by a governor who promised to protect their freedom. 

Frank Miniter is the author of Kill Big Brother, his latest novel, that shows how to keep government from infringing on our liberties. He is a contributor to Forbes and writes for many publications. His website is FrankMiniter.com.