By: José Niño
Although Vermont is in the news thanks to Socialist Bernie Sanders’ presidential run, the state has one of the most well-established pro-gun cultures in the nation.
Many of us forget that Vermont was an independent republic before the Constitution was ratified. The Vermont Constitution of 1777 enshrined the right to bear arms well before the Bill of Rights became codified. In it, it states the following: "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State – and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power." Fast forward to 1903, when the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the right to carry firearms without a permit in the State v. Rosenthal decision, which has remained in effect for more than a century.
Now, all of that could come crashing to a halt thanks to the state’s changing gun politics. Vermont was not able to escape the gun control tidal wave that followed the Parkland, Florida massacre of 2018. The Vermont General Assembly quickly passed red flag gun confiscation orders, a bump stock ban, expanded background checks, magazine capacity restrictions, and raised the age to buy firearms to 21. This legislative package came to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk and became the law of the land in the Green Mountain State on April 11, 2018.
All of this took place under the watch of a Republican governor of all elected officials, thus showing that the letter beside a politician’s name is no reliable indicator of their fealty to the Second Amendment. For Vermont’s anti-gun deviancy, Guns & Ammo magazine knocked the state down a few spots in its 2019 Best States for Gun Owners rankings. In the 2019 rankings, Vermont stood at 37th place. Back in 2017, Vermont occupied 20th place according to these rankings.
But if you think the gun control crowd is just stopping there, you would be sorely mistaken. Rabid as usual and looking to enact as much gun control as possible, Vermont gun controllers are now pushing for a new slew of gun control.
Vermont Representative Linda Sullivan introduced H. 600 to require dealers to file “suspicious activity reports.” The NRA-ILA described this bill as “bizarre” because of how it assumes someone is suspicious simply for inquiring about the price of a firearm or the purchase of multiple firearms.
In addition, House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Maxine Grad introduced H.610, which would make it easier for family members to petition for “red flag” gun confiscation orders. Current law stipulates that all petitioning of the courts has to be conducted by prosecutors.
Sen. Phil Baruth has been busy introducing gun control as well. One of his bills, S.258, would create a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for firearms purchases. As they say, a right delayed, is a right denied. This bill would deprive people the ability to purchase a firearm if they know they face an urgent threat. Countless studies have been conducted that have determined that these waiting period laws have little to no impact on gun crime.
Baruth’s other bill, S.259, would ban the carry of so-called semiautomatic “assault weapons” in certain venues such as churches, hospitals, and public gatherings.
Back to Bernie Sanders. Although Sanders is an outspoken “democratic socialist”, he has an intriguing legislative record on gun policy. In fact, he ran to the right of his Republican opponent Peter Smith on the gun issue in the 1990 election for Vermont’s at-large congressional district. He voted against the Brady Act in 1993, which established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). He also voted for legislation in 2003 and 2005 that granted partial immunity to gunmakers in certain civil lawsuits.
Sanders has, however, changed his tune in the last decade. After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, Sanders voted for bans on so-called high capacity magazines and universal background checks. To this day, Bernie’s anti-gun shift continues. Following the Christchurch, New Zealand massacre, Sanders demanded that the U.S. pass a ban on so-called “assault” weapons. In a tweet, he stated that, “We must follow New Zealand's lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States.”
With all of these facts in mind, it’s become abundantly clear that Vermont is experiencing a political shift that does not bode well for Second Amendment lovers in the Green Mountain State. It would be an immense tragedy to witness one of America’s most pro-gun states (historically speaking) fall firmly into anti-gun hands.
José Niño is a Venezuelan-American political activist writing from Fort Collins, Colorado. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.