Following the epic fail of universal background checks in 2015, it looks like Vermont’s 2016 legislative session is swiftly following suit.
Evan Hughes, vice president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, said anti-gun lobbyists may have toned down their efforts, at least financially, for this year.
“They spent some serious money last year, about $300,000” said Hughes. “That’s big money for lobbying in Vermont. This year, they moved their money up to nationwide elections.”
But their efforts included yet another round of proposed gun control measures in Vermont. Universal background checks appeared again, but quickly failed to gain traction.
“So far that was 2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016,” said Bob DePino, vice president of Gun Owners of Vermont. “They keep coming. They tried and they tried it again.”
S.31 would have made criminal background checks required for all private gun sales, but it did not have the support of the Association of Chiefs of Police.
Another bill, H.775, called for universal background checks but made exceptions for sales within a family, and sales to military and to police. The second version fared no better than the first.
“Basically it was UBC light, that’s what that was, and they didn’t get that either,” DePino said.
S.141, required those with mental illness to be reported to the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System, got stripped down.
“That was basically the other two-thirds of the universal background check bill” said DePino. “What they wanted and what they got was a lot different. There were almost a dozen concessions they had to make before the bill was actually passed.”
For the second year in a row, state lawmakers refused to advance gun control charter changes approved by the city of Burlington. The charter changes would have banned guns from establishments that serve alcohol, required guns to be locked away at home, and enabled police confiscation of firearms after an accusation of domestic violence.
“They basically had six bills (over two years) for the charter changes,” DePino said, adding that three didn’t get out of committee.
Bills to ban lead ammunition, restrict further development of shooting ranges, ban hunting on Berlin Pond and report gun ownership to home insurance companies also went nowhere.
Gun owners who use sound suppressors will be able to do so for the indefinite future, as lawmakers removed the sunset clause on last year’s silencer law.
While Hughes said Vermont is in good shape on protecting gun rights, he added that Vermonters must participate in the legislative process and vote for pro-Second Amendment candidates or gun control will sneak up again and again.
“The only thing they have is money,” Hughes said of gun control groups in Vermont. “They don’t have any grassroots membership.”
Hughes said Vermont has some of the highest gun ownership in the nation and very low crime rates. He added that the highest crime rates in the nation are in cities with strict gun control laws, such as New York and Chicago.