Vermont Senate to Debate Raising Legal Age to Buy Firearms to 21 | Off Message

Vermont Senate to Debate Raising Legal Age to Buy Firearms to 21


Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (center) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (center)
Updated at 6:25 p.m.

The Vermont Senate is expected to consider legislation Friday that would raise the legal age to purchase firearms from 16 to 21, except for members of the military and law enforcement officials.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) plans to introduce the proposal Thursday afternoon as an amendment to unrelated gun-regulation legislation. It would be considered Friday morning by the Senate Judiciary Committee and reach the Senate floor for debate and a vote later that day.

Fifteen other senators signed on as cosponsors of the amendment Thursday, suggesting that it has the votes to pass the 30-member chamber.

The proposal resembles one offered up last week by Republican Gov. Phil Scott as part of a slate of gun-control and school-safety measures. It differs from the governor’s proposal in one key respect: Scott's would allow those under 21 who take a gun safety course to buy firearms, while Ashe's would not.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Scott said he would prefer his version of the age restriction, but if one resembling Ashe’s reached his desk, “I could find a way to support that.”

Vermont law currently prohibits the sale of guns to those under age 16. Federal law prohibits the sale of handguns to those under 18 but sets no age restriction on the sale of rifles or shotguns by those who are not licensed firearms dealers.

Ashe hopes to attach his amendment to S.55, a gun-storage bill that has become a vehicle for several unrelated gun-control initiatives. The Senate attached another amendment to that legislation Thursday afternoon, mandating criminal background checks for all gun sales.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears (D-Bennington), who has been cool to some gun-control proposals and who opposes universal background checks, said Thursday he would be "fine" with raising the legal age to buy firearms but would "need some assurances" that the legislation wouldn't prevent young people from hunting.

John Walters contributed reporting.

Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of
Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Find our conflict-of-interest policy here: