Vermont Gun Control Laws

Gun control laws have been in flux recently. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment establishes a personal right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes. Since then, federal and state gun control laws have faced legal challenges. Congress and state legislatures have also debated a new wave of gun-related legislation.

While state gun control laws differ in their detail, there are some common features. Purchasing and possessing firearms for self-defense or recreational purposes is normally legal. Using a gun to commit a crime or carrying one in restricted spaces (schools, courthouses, prisons, etc.) is universally prohibited. Vermont’s gun control laws were quite permissive in terms of lawful use prior to some drastic changes in 2018. Here's a quick overview.

Gun Control in Vermont

Vermont's state constitution guarantees people the “right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state.” A “sportsmen’s bill of rights” further protects using firearms for recreational purposes. There are no permitting, registration, or licensing requirements in the state either. However, legislation that took effect on April 11, 2018 took the state in a new direction. Those changes raised the minimum age for purchasing a firearm from 18 to 21 (with conditions, detailed below); strengthened background check requirements for private sales; banned high-capacity ammunition magazines and so called "bump stocks"; and gave police greater power to confiscate guns from individuals labeled as an "extreme risk" or who have been arrested for domestic violence.

In addition, retailers and pawnbrokers must keep records of revolver and pistol sales and it’s illegal to have a gun on school property or in a courthouse without authorization. Doctors and hospitals must also report cases of gunshot wounds and gun-related injuries to law enforcement.

The state has always taken a hardline on unlawful firearm activity. Vermont makes it a crime to carry a dangerous weapon with the intent to injure someone. Using a gun to commit a felony or firing a gun while aiming it at someone are offenses too. Negligent use of a firearm can earn you up to five years in prison. There are also prohibitions on selling or furnishing guns to minors under the age of sixteen without parental permission. Finally, making or using a silencer is prohibited and punishable by a (small) fine. We should point out that federal laws severely punish firearm-related crimes (especially those involving convicted felons).

The following table provides a quick summary of Vermont gun control laws:

Code Sections Tit. 13 §§ 4001, et seq.
Illegal Arms
  • Silencers
  • “Zip” guns
  • "Bump stocks" (devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to be fired rapidly with a single pull of the trigger) -- goes into effect Oct. 1, 2018
  • Rifle magazines holding more than 10 rounds
  • Handgun magazines holding more than 15 rounds
  • Weapons of mass destruction.
Waiting Period None.
Who May Not Own a Gun
  • Individuals younger than 18 years of age
  • Individuals older than 18 but under 21 years of age, unless they have proof of completing a hunter safety course
  • Individuals labeled as an "extreme risk" (allows police to petition for confiscation)
  • Individuals arrested for domestic assault
Background Checks Virtually all private gun sales are subject to a background check by a federally licensed firearms dealer (transactions between family members are exempt).
Law Prohibiting Firearms On or Near School Grounds Yes.

Related Resources for Gun Control Laws

State gun control laws are subject to change. You can find more information about gun laws and related topics such as self-defense and stand your ground laws here. Anyone with more specific questions related to a particular case might consider contacting either a Vermont criminal lawyer or a gun-safety or advocacy group.

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