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Vermont House Gives Final Approval to Landmark Gun Bill


Gun rights proponents look on as Vermont House members debate gun legislation. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Gun rights proponents look on as Vermont House members debate gun legislation.
The Vermont House gave final approval to a major piece of gun legislation Tuesday evening, voting for it 89-54 after an extensive debate.

The Senate will now take up the bill, S.55, which would mandate universal background checks, raise the purchasing age for guns to 21, and ban both bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. The magazine ban spurred the most discussion during Tuesday's debate, which lasted six hours and followed a 10-hour debate last Friday.

A last-minute lobbying effort to exempt Vermont gun manufacturers from the ban on magazines with more than 10 rounds was victorious.

Reps. Corey Parent (R-St. Albans) and Eileen Dickinson (R-St. Albans) argued that without such an exemption, the bill would jeopardize hundreds of jobs at Century International Arms, a global firearms dealer with a factory in Franklin County.

“It seems hypocritical to me,” countered Rep. Brian Cina (P-Burlington). “Why would we ban something and then allow it to be made here?”

The House voted 123-21 to allow Vermont gunmakers to manufacture and export high-capacity magazines.

Earlier in the afternoon, Gov. Phil Scott voiced support for both the exemption and the underlying legislation. “There are many pieces of that bill that I am in agreement with and so I would hope that they do whatever they can to make sure we protect businesses in Vermont,” he told reporters.

Many of Scott's fellow Republicans in the House, however, expressed vociferous opposition to S.55. "With the passage of this bill, 227 years of Vermont tradition has just gone down the drain," Rep. Brian Savage (R-Swanton) said. The House considered more than a dozen amendments and made a handful of other small changes to the bill. Among them: It upped the magazine capacity limit to 15 rounds for handguns after hearing concerns that many pistols come with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. It also tweaked the bill to allow participants in shooting competitions to bring high-capacity magazines into the state, solely for use at those events. That provision sunsets in July 2019.

An attempt by Rep. Paul Poirier (I-Barre City) to incorporate a buy-back program that would allow licensed gun dealers to sell high-capacity magazines and bump stocks to the state failed 47-97 after multiple lawmakers raised concerns about the cost of such a program.